When you buy renters insurance, itâs with the hope that youâll never have to use it. However, there are all kinds of disasters that can result in the loss of your personal belongings or the loss of use of your rental home, from a burglary to a small fire to the complete destruction of the building you live in. Whether your insurance claim is for the loss of some of your personal belongings or something much more serious, hereâs what you need to know to file your claim, including the steps youâll need to follow and what to expect during the claims process.
To file a renters insurance claim:
Consumers can expect a renters insurance policy to provide three types of coverage: personal property coverage, renters liability insurance, and reimbursement for additional living expenses.
Personal property or belongings coverage reimburses a renter for the loss, damage, or destruction of his or her personal belongings, such as furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, bedding and towels, sports equipment, and musical instruments. Particularly valuable items such as jewelry, artwork, and collectibles may require additional coverage, known as a rider or a floater.
Personal liability insurance coverage protects the renter if a lawsuit arises from incidents on the rental property, such as accidental injuries, bites from household pets, or accidental damage to a neighborâs personal property.
Additional living expenses coverage provides reimbursement if the rental property is damaged and the occupants need to relocate temporarily. This coverage reimburses you for hotel bills, meals, and other expenses above and beyond normal living expenses.
Renters insurance claims can arise from disasters such as smoke, fire, explosions, theft, vandalism, windstorms, lightning, and water damage from internal sources, such as plumbing leaks. Earthquakes and floods are typically excluded.
Realize that the faster you file your claim and the more thoroughly you document it, the faster youâll be compensated and the less likely your claim is to be denied. Any mistakes or omissions will likely result in processing delays or possibly a smaller settlement. The claims procedure should be similar for all renters insurance companies, though youâll want to check with yours to see if they have additional expectations or requirements.
The first step in filing a renters insurance claim is to let your landlord know whatâs going on. Even though the landlord isnât likely to be involved in your claim, most leases require you to inform them immediately of any situations in which the property is compromised or damaged. If the property needs repairs, the landlord will be the one to coordinate that, and if a burglary or other crime occurred, the landlord should be aware and should alert other tenants. In addition to telling your landlord, assess your property and ensure that it’s safe to live in. Do all the doors and windows still lock? Do the plumbing and electricity still work? Are there hazardous materials that need to be dealt with? Take whatever steps are needed to make your unit safe for you and the people you live with, and tell your landlord if you need assistance or need to move out.
Report if Needed
In some cases, youâll need to file a police report as part of your renters insurance claim, according to the Insurance Information Institute. If your losses are the result of a burglary, theft, vandalism, or other malicious action, you absolutely should file a police report. Most insurance companies will require it in these situations to help with the investigation. A police report may also be needed for fires, explosions, and other events that compromise safety. You wonât need to file a police report for something less serious like a burst pipe.
The purpose of the police report, from the insurance companyâs perspective, is to establish that a crime has taken place and back up your description of the events. When youâre filing the report, record the names of every police officer you talk to so your insurance company‘s claims adjuster can speak to them if needed. A copy of the report should also be included when you file your renters insurance claim.
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When you call your agent, be ready to provide your policy number and all the information you currently have about the incident. Your agent can verify the time limit for filing your claim, your coverage, and whether the amount of your claim will be higher than your deductible. The agency can also estimate how long it will take to process the claim.
Document the Incident and Your s
By now, youâll have contacted your landlord, secured your property as much as possible, filed a police report if necessary, and contacted your insurance company. You should document each of these steps. In particular, keep a copy of the police report and any receipts for immediate expenses you may have incurred, such as replacing locks or boarding up broken windows. You’ll need this documentation if you want to be reimbursed for these costs.
Next, document your lost, damaged, or destroyed personal items. You should have a full list of everything that will need to be replaced; information from your home inventory, such as the date you acquired the item, what you paid for it, and copies of receipts, if you have them; and photos or video to document the amount of damage to each item. The insurance company will understand if you donât have complete details for lower-value items, but more valuable ones will require more documentation. Fill out the companyâs claims form (online or using a smartphone app) with all the information requested. A straightforward, well-documented claim may be settled in as little as a few hours, according to legal advice website Nolo. But claims may take longer if there are holes in the documentation or if the claim requires a visit from a claims adjuster
Following these steps will help reduce the chances that your renters insurance claim investigation will be delayed or that you wonât get your full settlement.
Next, use the information you’ve documented to complete your claim. Your renters insurance policy will state how much time you have to do that. In most cases, the time limit is 48 and 72 hours. If the situation is ongoing, such as if youâre forced to relocate temporarily and are accumulating additional living expenses, you can update your claim as necessary. However, itâs very important to file the initial claim within the allotted time frame. Your renters insurance company can help you with the process if youâre unsure of timing.
Finally, itâs time to update your home inventory. Take notes as youâre going through your belongings, and make another round of updates once your claim is processed and you replace your items. Also, note anything you might have recently purchased that you neglected to include in your original inventory.
Compensation for loss of property in the case of significant events or disasters
Compensation for additional living expenses if you’re forced to temporarily relocate
Liability coverage if a guest is injured on your property or a member of your household damages someone elseâs property
Your rates may go up and/or you’ll lose any discounts for going claim-free
The claim may not be worth the hassle if it’s not much higher than your deductible
If you’re at fault, your insurance company may see you as an unnecessary risk
Before you go file your renters insurance claim, consider whether or not it makes sense to do so. According to Apartmentguide, a website that provides advice for renters, insurance companies only expect a policyholder to make a claim once every 10 years on average. If you file claims more often than that, your insurance company will notice. Don’t assume you should file a claim for every incident.
There are many factors to consider when deciding if filing your particular renters insurance claim makes sense financially. These pros and cons will depend on the type of incident and the specific details of your policy, such as your deductible amount and policy limits.
There are a few ways in which filing a renters insurance claim may impact your rates. In particular:
- Your premiums may go up
- You may lose a claim-free discount
- Your insurance company may drop you as a customer
Apartmentguide says renters should consider saving renters insurance claims for more expensive situations. Even if a single, modest claim doesnât cause your rate to go up, it might go up later if you file another claim within a relatively short period of time. Plus, even a modest claim will disqualify you for a claims-free discount. And, if you make too many claims, your insurance company may think you’re too much of a risk and drop your coverage entirely.
If youâre filing a renters insurance claim for personal belongings coverage, the most important factor affecting your payout is whether you have an actual cash value policy or a replacement cost policy. With an actual cash value policy, youâll be compensated for the depreciated value of your items. On the other hand, a replacement cost policy pays out as if your items were new. According to the Insurance Information Institute, youâll first get a check for the actual value of your items, regardless of which type of policy you have. If you have a replacement value policy, youâll have to replace the items and provide documentation, and then youâll get another check for the difference between actual and replacement value. Straightforward claims can be settled in as little as a few hours, according to Nolo, but a more complicated claim will take longer. In the case of a replacement value claim, youâll likely have a few months to complete the purchases and provide documentation.
United Policyholders says that if youâre filing a claim for additional living expenses reimbursement, it may be more of an ongoing process, depending on why you have to relocate. Your insurance company can provide more information about what to expect for this type of renters insurance claim payout.
What Are Mistakes to Avoid in Filing a Renters Insurance Claim?
Any errors in filing a claim, including omitting required information or documentation, can cause the claim to be delayed or denied outright.
Speed is also important. “The first requirement of any claim is that you file as soon as you know that thereâs going to be a claim, or at least there could be one,â says Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute. Avoid delays if at all possible. Weisbart adds that itâs important to be organized and be ready to provide the details of the lost or damaged items, including age and value, to the insurance company.
Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, says that âbeing untruthfulâ and âwaiting too long to fileâ can result in a denied claim.
Finally, make sure the claim is worth filing. If it’s for an amount thatâs not much more than the deductible, or if you can easily deal with the expense yourself, it may be better not to file because it could result in lost discounts or increased premiums.
How Long Does It Take to File a Renters Insurance Claim?
Once youâve informed your insurance company that your rental property or belongings were damaged in a disaster that will likely result in a claim, you typically will be expected to file the claim within 48 to 72 hours. Double-check when you initially contacted the company about your claim. Filing your claim will go faster and more smoothly if you have already taken inventory of all your belongings, including purchase dates and amounts, so you can quickly see whatâs missing or damaged. If the incident is ongoing â for example, if youâve been forced to evacuate the rental property and havenât had time to determine everything that was damaged or destroyed â let your insurance company know. Keeping in touch and updating your claim if necessary is much better than failing to initiate the claim on time.
How Long Does It Take to Pay Out a Renters Insurance Claim?
If your claim is for personal possessions coverage and you have an actual cash value policy, you may get your settlement check fairly quickly after just a bit of back-and-forth with your agent or claims adjuster. Insurance companies won’t say exactly how long it will take, but it depends in part on how many items were involved and how much documentation you had to submit. If all your belongings were damaged or destroyed, you should get a settlement check for your policy limit after the claims investigation is complete.
If you have a replacement cost policy, youâll be reimbursed in phases. How quickly that happens is partly up to you. Youâll receive an initial settlement check for the actual cash value of your items, and then youâll have a set period of time (usually a few months) to actually replace your belongings and submit receipts to qualify for the full replacement value settlement. Depending on how long this part of the process takes, it could be another few months until you receive your full settlement.
For an additional living expenses claim, the time for reimbursement can vary depending on the situation and on your insurance company. If youâre displaced from your property for a long time, the process may be ongoing. However, in some cases, insurance companies may be willing to provide a lump sum upfront if itâs clear that the situation will involve significant expenses.
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