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Renters insurance is a policy that covers damage to personal belongings, third-party personal liability claims, medical payments, loss of use, and additional living expenses when you rent a house, condo, or apartment. Having renters insurance is important because your landlord’s insurance policy doesn’t cover your items or liability.
The average cost of renters insurance is $15 to $30 per month, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which is much cheaper than the cost of homeowners insurance. However, renters insurance premiums depend on multiple factors, including your location, policy limits, claims history, and credit score.
Renters insurance only covers your belongings and personal liability, not the structure of your unit.
Many property managers and landlords require tenants to buy renters insurance.
This policy type doesn’t cover damages and losses from floods or earthquakes — you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy and an earthquake endorsement for protection from these perils.
What is renters insurance?
Renters insurance, also known as HO-4 insurance, specifically protects tenants. Standard renters insurance policies include four components: personal property coverage, personal liability coverage, medical payments coverage, and loss of use coverage (commonly known as additional living expenses). Some insurance companies also sell endorsements for additional protection.
Good to Know
If you experience a covered loss, you can file a claim with your insurance company to get reimbursement, up to your policy’s limit. Most renters insurance policies have a deductible, which is the amount you pay out of pocket when you file a claim before your policy covers the rest.
Who needs renters insurance?
Everyone who rents their home should have renters insurance, and many rental agreements require tenants to buy their own insurance coverage. Your landlord’s insurance policy doesn’t provide any protection for your personal items, so you’re responsible for paying the out-of-pocket costs to replace your belongings if you don’t have renters insurance.
For example, imagine a fire in your building destroys most of your personal items. Your landlord’s policy will cover the structural damage, but not the items in your unit. Without renters insurance, you’d have to replace all your belongings using your own money.
If you had renters insurance, you could file a claim with your insurance company to get reimbursement or replacement for your damaged items. After investigating the incident, your insurer would provide a settlement that you could use to replace the damaged items with new ones. The loss of use coverage in your renters policy could also pay for temporary housing if the fire leaves your home uninhabitable.
What does renters insurance cover?
Most renters insurance policies cover personal property, liability, medical expenses, and loss of use. Here’s what each coverage applies to:
Personal property insurance covers the belongings in your home or apartment, including furniture, clothing, decor, electronics, and small appliances.
Liability insurance covers your legal and financial responsibility in third-party claims of bodily injury or property damage.
If someone gets injured in your home, medical expenses coverage will pay for some of their medical bills, whether or not you were responsible for the incident.
Loss of use
Loss of use insurance pays for temporary living expenses (like a hotel and restaurant meals) if your home or apartment becomes uninhabitable after a covered loss.
Types of losses renters insurance covers
Renters insurance provides comprehensive coverage for many different losses you might face as a tenant. It covers damage from incidents like fires, windstorms, falling objects, hail, theft, vandalism, power surges, and sudden and accidental water discharge from something like a burst pipe or overflowing bathtub in the apartment unit above yours.
A basic renters insurance policy also covers your liability if someone gets injured in your apartment and sues you. The liability portion of your policy also covers claims related to accidental property damage that you cause to someone else’s belongings.
Optional rental insurance coverages to add
While standard renters insurance policies provide robust coverage, they don’t cover everything. To fill gaps in your policy, many renters insurance companies sell optional coverages. Here are some of the coverages that you can add to your renters policy:
Contents replacement cost coverage: Basic renters policies cover your personal items up to theiractual cash value(ACV), which calculates the item’s value after depreciation. You can upgrade to areplacement cost coveragepolicy, which provides a higher payout to replace your damaged items with new ones of similar make and quality to the old ones, at current market cost.
Flood insurance: Most renters insurance policies exclude coverage for floods. You can purchase a separate flood insurance policy or endorsement that covers your personal belongings against flood damage.
Earthquake insurance: Standard renters policies usually don’t cover earth movement or earthquakes. If you live in an area that experiences earthquakes, you can add an earthquake endorsement to your renters insurance policy.
Identity theft insurance: Identity theft insurance is an add-on that covers expenses associated with identity theft, such as lawyer fees, credit-repair costs, and more.
How much does renters insurance cost?
The average cost of renters insurance is between $15 and $30 per month, or $180 to $360 per year, according to the NAIC.
However, the actual cost of renters insurance is different for everyone. Some of the factors that can affect renters insurance prices are your location, coverage limits, optional coverages, claim history, deductible, credit record, and insurance company.
Renters insurance discounts
To find the lowest renters insurance premium for your situation, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare rates from several insurers. You can also look for insurance companies that offer renters insurance discounts. Some of the most common renters discounts include:
If you purchase renters insurance and another policy from the same insurer, like car insurance, you can often get a significant discount.
Pay in full
Most insurers provide a small discount if you pay your annual renters insurance premium up front and in full.
If your house or apartment is equipped with safety devices like burglar alarms and smoke detectors, you could earn a discount on your premium.
Some companies offer a discount for getting a renters insurance quote at least a week before your current renters insurance policy expires.
5 best renters insurance companies
Many insurance companies offer renters insurance, but they have differences you should account for when comparing renters insurance quotes. Before you choose an insurer, it’s important to compare companies based on key features, like cost, financial strength, and discounts.
Here are the top five best renters insurance companies, based on Insurify's analysis.
To choose the best renters insurance companies, Insurify considered each company’s market share rank from the NAIC, their financial strength rating from AM Best, and the renters insurance discounts they offer.
How to file a renters insurance claim
If you experience a covered loss, it’s important to file a renters insurance claim as soon as possible. Here are the steps you should follow to file a renters claim:
Document the damage. Take photos and videos of the damage. Visual evidence of the loss will help your assigned insurance adjuster evaluate and process your claim.
File a police report. If you’re filing a claim for theft or vandalism, you should also file a report with your local police. Your insurance company may request the police report when it investigates the claim.
Notify your insurance company. Once you have the photos, videos, and police report, contact your insurance company to report the claim. You’ll fill out claim paperwork and submit the documentation you’ve collected. Typically, you can file a claim through your insurer's mobile app, online, or over the phone.
Talk to your landlord. It’s a good idea to contact your landlord about the incident, even if they’re not involved. If you’re filing a claim for damage from a natural disaster or a crime, your landlord or property manager may want to know what happened.
Wait for your settlement. Once you’ve submitted the claim, the adjuster will determine how much money the insurance company pays out. Most insurers will issue the settlement in the form of a check or direct deposit.
Can you get renters insurance if you live with roommates?
You can get renters insurance if you live with roommates. However, it’s important to know that your renters insurance policy won’t automatically cover the other people you live with (and vice versa). Depending on your state and insurance company, you might be able to add a roommate to your renters insurance policy so you both have coverage.
Does renters insurance cover flooding?
Most renters insurance policies exclude coverage for flooding, even if a hurricane or other natural disaster causes it. If you want coverage for flooding, you should purchase a separate flood insurance policy or add a flood insurance endorsement to your renters policy.
Does renters insurance dog bites?
Yes, renters insurance usually covers dog bites. If your dog bites someone else and they sue you, your renters insurance policy should cover your legal costs and the person’s medical bills, up to your policy’s limit.
Renters insurance FAQs
Still have questions about renters insurance? Here’s some more information about renters insurance that can be helpful for tenants.
How do you create an inventory for renters insurance?
Having a home inventory is very beneficial. An inventory should include all the personal items you own (or groups of items, like clothing) and their estimated prices. If you have receipts or detailed information, like serial numbers for appliances, you should also include those. An inventory comes in handy when you need to file a personal property claim.
Do college students need rental insurance?
Some college students need rental insurance, but it depends on the situation. If you’re a dependent and your parents have home insurance, you may have coverage under their policy, even if you’re living somewhere else. However, you should verify with their home insurance agent whether or not their coverage extends to your off-campus rental.
Is landlord insurance different from renters insurance?
Landlord insurance and renters insurance are different. Your landlord or property manager pays for landlord insurance, which covers damage to the physical structure of the building and common areas, as well as personal property left on-site for tenant use, like a lawn mower. It also includes liability insurance and loss of rental income. Renters insurance, which you'll pay for as a tenant, covers tenants’ belongings, liability, and loss of use.
Do landlords require renters insurance?
Many landlords and property managers do require renters insurance as part of a lease agreement. Even if your landlord doesn't, renters insurance is still worth it. Remember that your landlord’s insurance doesn’t provide any coverage for your belongings, so you’d have to pay out of pocket to replace any damaged items after a covered loss, regardless of the cause.
Elizabeth Rivelli is a freelance writer covering insurance and personal finance. She has extensive knowledge of various insurance lines, including property and casualty, health, and life insurance. Her byline has been featured in dozens of publications, including Investopedia, Forbes, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, and Insurance.com.