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Renters Insurance Reviews

Using Renters Insurance Reviews & Ratings to Find the Best Renters Insurance

According to The Wall Street Journal, renters now make up the majority of residents in the 11 biggest US cities, largely due to the recent downturn in the economy that caused some people to lose their homes to foreclosure and others to proactively tighten their belts by eliminating the high costs associated with owning a home. In reducing one's cost of living, it can be tempting to forgo renter's property insurance because it's usually not mandatory like homeowners insurance is for mortgage lenders. However, fire, theft, smoke and plumbing mishaps can put renters' belongings at risk, and renter's insurance is an expense that you should find a way to absorb.

Many people don't have renter's insurance because they think their landlord covers loss of their belongings in many cases. This is generally not true, though, and a landlord is responsible for damage or loss only in a limited number of scenarios. Many more people don't get around to getting renter's insurance because they are confused and overwhelmed by all the information available to them about insurance options. Read on to learn more about what you should look for when considering a carrier for renter's insurance and how to make sense of insurance reviews, so you can choose a policy that's best for you.

Types of Coverage

There are two types of coverage for renter's insurance. Actual cash value, or ACV, insurance pays in a claim what an item is worth at the time it is lost or damaged, taking into account the item's depreciation in value over time since new. Replacement value, also known as RV, insurance pays out what it costs to replace your belongings with something similar.

RV insurance may cost a bit more when it comes to premiums, but it may be worth it in the long run. It is also the standard coverage offered by most carriers for certain electronics like computers. If your budget is really tight, ACV insurance is better than nothing, and it may be the way to go if you are planning on replacing items soon anyway, if you are, say, getting married in the near future.

Amount of Coverage

All policies have minimum and maximum amounts of coverage, and you should make sure these coincide with the value of your belongings. A luxury condominium dweller with expensive furnishings will probably need more coverage than someone renting their first apartment out of school, for example.

Beyond that, carriers often place caps on certain types of items, so you need to also examine these and see if they cover all of your belongings. Typically, insurance caps are put on things like jewelry, silverware, firearms and furs. If you have very costly belongings or a lot of artwork or antiques, you should inquire about the possibility and cost of getting additional coverage, known as a "floater" or "rider," for these items.

Other types of extra coverage you may need include:

  • loss of use: a time or dollar amount that picks up the tab if you have to live elsewhere while repairs are made
  • special hazards or natural disaster coverage as basic renter's insurance won't cover these
  • pet damage, separate from liability
  • liability insurance if someone gets hurt in your abode, which can be mandated by some landlords

Always check to see if roommates are covered in your policy, and also make sure your belongings are covered away from home. If the trunk of your car is broken into and your golf clubs stolen, you want your renter's insurance to cover that as if it were a theft in your home.

Pricing

A great deal of pricing is determined by the amount of coverage you have in your individual policy, but not always. Some big insurance carriers are able to offer good deals on coverage because they have a large pool of customers who broaden their total risk.

Another factor that influences pricing is your deductible. This is the amount that you have to pay over and above what your insurance carrier pays if you file a claim. Like with car insurance, a smaller deductible can mean you have to pay a larger monthly premium, and vice versa.

Other factors that can influence pricing include:

  • discounts for fire sprinklers and burglar alarms
  • the presence of certain pets, especially dogs deemed dangerous by the carrier
  • special introductory rates
  • discounts for bundling renter's insurance with other insurance from the same carrier

If a carrier is offering a seductive introductory rate, be sure to find out when the rate will increase and to how much. Stay away from carriers where reviewers say their rates were boosted after filing claims, as this should not happen other than with repeated instances of renter negligence.

You will usually be able to save money by paying an entire year's premium in one lump sum. Make certain to compare the total cost of paying monthly or quarterly against the savings of paying your insurance up front.

Billing

In addition to annual versus monthly billing, there are a few other things to take into account regarding paying for insurance. While most people prefer the option of online payment, determine whether this means an automatic debit from your bank account or if you need to go online to pay every month. Also, know that some carriers now refuse any type of paper payment; if you need to pay by check or money order, make sure any prospective insurance carriers allow this.

It's wise to inquire about any cancellation policies a carrier has, in the event you need to change or eliminate your policy. You could wind up moving to a foreign city or unexpectedly get married or purchase a home. Also, some carriers provide short-term policies. This is a perfect solution if you have to rent in between selling one home and buying another.

Claims and Customer Service

Most people don't find out about an insurance company's customer service until they have to file a claim. Do yourself a favor, and read the reviews for any provider you're considering using. If the amazingly glowing top reviews and crazy ranting bottom reviews seem suspect to you, stick with the middle of the road comments to get a true sense of what customers think about any particular carrier.

Claims should be easy to file, especially in emergency situations. You want a carrier that is responsive with a live person 24/7 as accidents and robberies rarely happen at convenient times. Look at how fast a carrier answers questions and claims and how quickly claimants are given their money, as well as if it is transferred electronically or sent as a paper check.

Insurance companies should also make it easy for customers to set up an inventory of their property in case they ever need to file a claim. Many carriers today have forms or templates online for your ease, with tips for how to list your property. You can even use photographs or video documentation, which helps eliminate disputes when filing a claim. Be sure to keep your inventory in a secure place away from your home, such as in a safety deposit box, so you will have access to it under any circumstances.

Reputation

While the kind of financial rating you may require of a homeowner's policy isn't generally necessary with a renter's policy, you do want a carrier that has a strong reputation and solid financial backing if they have to pay out many claims at one time. Look for one that that does well with BBB, Better Business Bureau, ratings and has overall high rankings with customer reviews.

You've worked hard to accumulate the belongings in your home; be sure to protect them with renter's insurance. Take your time going over insurance carrier reviews, and select a policy that works best for your situation. You'll have the satisfaction of knowing your household is covered in times of emergency.