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Questions about Renters’ Insurance? Ask a Lawyer

My belongings aren’t worth much. Do I really need renters’ insurance?

Flooding or fire has occurred in your building. You have experienced damage to your property, and it was not your fault. Does your landlord or his insurance cover you if he was not the cause of the damage? In most cases, no. Renters' insurance, which is relatively inexpensive, will cover many of these losses and more.

You may believe your property is not very valuable, but think about the cost of replacing your TV, clothing, furniture, or computer equipment. Renters' insurance will help you replace these items, and provides liability protection for you if you cause a water leak or fire damage to other tenants or the landlord's property. It can also protect you if someone is hurt in your apartment, and claims that you, or your pet, caused the injury. The insurer provides legal representation, and also pays any damages if you are considered responsible.

Renters' insurance can also cover the loss of some of your property by theft or burglary, even if it occurs away from your residence. For property with a value higher than normal coverage, such as jewelry and furs, "floater" insurance is available, at additional cost.

The cost of renters' insurance depends on the value of your property and your geographic location. You must choose a "deductible" which is the portion of loss you are willing to afford, for example, $100, $250, $500. The insurance premium will be lower if you choose a higher deductible.

In addition, you may be able to choose replacement value coverage. This means that the insurer will pay the cost of replacing the property at current prices, not the depreciated or current resale value of your property. Of course, there is an additional premium for this coverage. Most large insurance companies will provide quotes for the insurance, and if you have access to a computer, rough comparisons can be obtained at

After you purchase the insurance, you may want to make an inventory of your belongings in the home. One way to do this is to take photographs of each room, leaving closets and cabinets open, and write the date you took the photos on the back of each. Copies of the inventory, photos, and sales receipts for expensive items should be kept not only in the apartment, but also with a trusted friend or relative, or in a safe deposit box.

If you have further questions about renters’ insurance and you are more than 60 years of age and a District of Columbia resident, call the Hotline at Legal Counsel for the Elderly, 202-434-2170. General information is available from the Federal Citizen Information Center, Pueblo, CO 81009,