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Archive for Thursday, May 18, 2006

Coverage varies on renter’s insurance policies

May 18, 2006

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A row house in the District of Columbia had to be quickly evacuated and then bulldozed after sliding off its foundation.

The residents of the house, a woman and her adult son, suddenly found themselves not only homeless but without their possessions.

And if that wasn't bad enough, the family said it wasn't sure if it had renter's insurance.

Typically if you're not sure, you don't have it.

If the landlord had insurance, only the building would be covered. If the renters didn't have insurance coverage for the contents of that house, they won't be compensated.

This is yet another example of how important it is to have renter's insurance, a topic I tackled recently.

OK, so it's not likely your apartment or rented house will collapse one day, but there are other more common occurrences. Renter's insurance protects your personal possessions if your property gets damaged, destroyed or stolen.

When I wrote about the high percentage of renters who don't have insurance (nearly 7 in 10, according to one survey), one reader was prompted to get coverage. He also had a question.

"I am currently renting a studio apartment alone," he wrote. "I have been living there for over a year now, and my girlfriend will be moving in shortly. However, only my name is on the lease. Could the renter's insurance cover her possessions, given that her name will not be on the lease?"

Nope. Your live-in honey doesn't get automatic insurance coverage on her stuff based on your individual renter's policy.

"Both people need to take out their own renter's insurance," advised Rachel Arnold, director of public affairs for the National Apartment Assn.

Oh, and here's something else to note: Although you may not need to prove residency when you get renter's insurance, you may have to prove it if you have to make a claim, according to Emily Crane, manager of media relations for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

"We recommend you sign a lease or a subleasing agreement," Crane said.

However, Shaundra Turner, a spokesperson with Allstate, said her company's agencies do not require proof of residency.

My suggestion, before you buy renter's insurance, is to check if you have to verify your residency by way of a signed lease should you have to make a claim.

Michelle Singletary is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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