When the bakery under my apartment caught fire, my tenants insurance covered everything, including a new couch that I otherwise couldn't have afforded.

When the bakery under my apartment caught fire, my tenants insurance covered everything, including a new couch that I otherwise couldn’t have afforded.

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  • When I was 20, my boyfriend’s dad almost insisted we get renters insurance.
  • I thought that was archaic advice, but it ended up saving us when the bakery below our apartment caught fire.
  • We were able to replace all our furniture and even some thanks to our coverage.

A long, long time ago my former self (and entirely unschooled in the adult world) knew nothing about renters insurance – even though I had been renting an apartment in Boston for several years since graduating. of college.

Had I tried to find out more, I probably would have considered renters insurance too scary an answer to potential tragedy – not to mention that I could fit all my belongings in the back of my Mercury Tracer station wagon. second hand. In other words, my meager possessions hardly seemed worth the investment.

A crisis finally breaks out

When my then-boyfriend and I decided to move in together and his dad practically insisted we get tenants insurance, I scoffed at this seemingly archaic advice.

Then, late one night, just weeks after moving into a second-floor studio on the main thoroughfare of a bustling college town, we were awakened by the sound of knocking on our apartment door. Dismissing the noise like a drunken neighbor, we went back to sleep until the smell of smoke – coupled with more aggressive banging – alerted us to the fact that our building was on fire.

I remember grabbing my wallet and keys (we’re talking about before the cell phone days, folks), walking down the stairs in boxers, a t-shirt, and flip flops, and having watched as the flames from the downstairs bakery below our bedroom lapped angrily skyward. When a firefighter threw an ax at the door I had just walked out of, reality set in: the water and smoke damage alone would make our house a total loss.

In hindsight, renters insurance turned out to be a game-changer.

Our renters insurance policy covered almost everything we lost

As we were temporarily displaced and lost myriad things of sentimental value that couldn’t be replaced, paying a policy under $200 became a cornerstone of our lives going forward. Although we weren’t suddenly short of cash, we had the option of replacing every item lost in the fire with a comparable item, regardless of price or specification.

The four-poster twin bed in my boyfriend’s childhood bedroom became a king-size mattress and box spring with a cherry wood headboard. The twice-upholstered floral sofa bed (with exposed springs to boot) turned into a beautiful linen-covered centerpiece for our new living room. And we even splurged on a Mission-style coffee table entirely out of our budget that we’ve been considering for a long time to replace a thrift-store quality version inherited from someone’s aunt.

Ditto for our television, our computer, our desk, our chests of drawers, etc. : as long as an item was lost, we were free to replace it and, on presentation of a receipt, we were promptly reimbursed.

Were there any parameters? Absolutely. Although no one offered to write us a check for the full amount of coverage, which we could have used to fund a well-deserved getaway to Hawaii, we certainly could have spent the full value of our policy – $20,000 – on a single piece of furniture if we had so chosen, assuming there was proof of purchase.

Here’s what’s covered by renters insurance

So what’s included in renters insurance rates? Most policies have four basic types of coverage:

Personal property: If your belongings are stolen or destroyed in a fire, this part of the policy pays to replace them — minus your deductible (the dollar amount you must cover before your policy takes effect).

Responsibility: In the event of lawsuits and/or legal expenses related to someone injured in your home, this part of the policy covers them.

Medical payments: Often bundled with liability, this coverage will pay for injuries to a guest at your residence (from a dog bite to a fall down the stairs) without requiring a lawsuit. Note that some dog breeds cost more while others may not be covered at all.

Loss of use: When our apartment was deemed uninhabitable following the fire, this cover paid the bill for hotels and restaurants (beyond the usual expenses) until we found new accommodation.

According to a recent analysis by NerdWallet, the average renter’s insurance policy will cost you around $179 per year (or $15 per month) depending on details like where you live and previous claims. (In this case, the estimate was based on a hypothetical 30-year-old renter with $30,000 personal property coverage, $100,000 liability coverage, and $500 deductible.)

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I recommend renters insurance to everyone

Today, after two decades of homeownership – which, oddly enough, requires home insurance if there’s a mortgage involved (but that’s another story!) – I still sing the praises of tenant insurance to those who, like I once was, might not be familiar with the myriad of benefits (not to mention affordable) that come with a policy.

Although it took a while for the stench of smoke and the mountain of paperwork to dissipate (insurance even covered dry cleaning bills for all of our smoke-damaged clothes!), my experience with the tenants’ insurance remains positive.

And if I have any regrets, it’s that we did it not replacing the vintage 1970s Atari game console – or mountain of compatible cartridges – on which we had played a fierce game of Frogger just days before the fire. I mean, if only eBay had existed back then…

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