Save your stuff, get that renters insurance

Adulthood is hard, filled with new and important things that are equally confusing. Like renters insurance. Here’s a crash course that will help navigate through its waters.

  1. It should actually be called property insurance because that’s what it covers: your stuff. Your landlord has insurance that covers the actual building and structure that you live in; renters insurance covers all you own: clothes, jewelry, furniture, electronics, bike, small appliances, and even art.
  2. Probably you think you don’t own a lot of stuff, but ask yourself if you can afford to replace everything if something destroyed all or most of it… let me remind you what your stuff means: clothes, jewelry, furniture, electronics, bike, small appliances, art, etc.
  3. Renters insurance covers your property when it’s inside AND outside of your home.
  4. Renters insurance will cover your property no matter where the loss occurs, as long as it’s a “covered” type of loss. The “covered” risks include theft, vandalism, fire damage, water damage (excluding flooding) and extreme weather events at a minimum. Stolen laptop at a coffee shop? – Renters insurance will pay. Bike vandalized while parked outside a bookstore? – Renters insurance. Camera stolen on vacation? Yup, renters insurance.
  5. Renters insurance also protects your property when it’s in your car. In the unfortunate event your car gets stolen and your computer was in it, renters insurance will cover that. In another unfortunate event if you’re in a car accident and your camera gets damaged, renters insurance has got your back.
  6. It’s not that costly. The average cost of the policy is pretty low, around $10-$20 a month. The exact amount depends on where you live, how much stuff you own, the company you use and your deductible.
  7. If you already have car insurance, check for discounts on renters insurance if you’re shopping from the same company. It’s a thing called “bundling” and it can save you a little on your monthly premiums. It might even make the cost of your car insurance go down because there are redundancies in coverage.
  8. What’s your coverage type? The best one is “replacement cost coverage” simply because it will cover the current cost to get you a new version of what you’ve lost. The other one, called “actual cash value” is cheaper, but it only covers the depreciated value of your stuff based on the condition it’s in and when you bought it.
  9. The deductible is for each claim you make. You might be used to the health insurance policy where you often have a yearly deductible, but with renters insurance things are different. So, if your laptop disappeared from your car while you were grocery shopping in March and your clothes are all ruined by a fire in August, not only have you had a terrible year, you’ll also have to pay your deductible twice. And this is why a lower deductible is usually worth paying a slightly higher premium.
  10. Usually, the default deductible is $500, but you can choose a lower one or contact your insurance representative to get it lowered. On average, the monthly premiums are raised $1 a month or $10-$12 a year for every $100 you lower the deductible.
  11. Plans have a maximum limit for each kind of item. Take jewelry, watches and computers—these are only covered up to a certain amount, usually around $1,500. Also, those who work from home with expensive equipment, there’s a limit for them, too. In these cases you can buy an addition to the plan and they’re called “floaters” or “riders”.
  12. There can be two unrelated roommates on the same policy, even if they’re not both on the lease. However, no matter whose stuff is damaged, claim checks will be made out to both roommates, so you better have a good relationship. And beware, theft by a roommate is not covered.
  13. If you live in a dorm, your parent’s homeowners will still cover your property. Because technically, you still part of your parent’s household while you’re in college.
  14. If there’s a fire and you have to leave, renters insurance will pay for hotel, food, laundry, childcare and other expenses that arise because you’re away from home.
  15. Liability coverage is included for if someone gets hurt in your home. Say your dog bites someone; your renters insurance will cover the medical costs you would be responsible for, including medical and legal fees up to a certain amount. However, if you own an “aggressive” breed, things might be different—check before you buy the policy.
  16. When lightning strikes… yup, renters insurance!
  17. Renting or subletting is NOT covered by renters insurance. Think twice before you AirBnB your rented apartment because if anything happens to your stuff during that time, you won’t be protected.
  18. Home inventory is a must with renters insurance. Either make a video with everything you own or find an app that will keep track of that for you.

A sense of community, a sense of protection

Friendships can make a neighborhood watch more efficient and effective.

Renters insurance is a safety net used to support clients when the unthinkable happens. Yet for the renter and the insurer, prevention is the truest safeguard.

neighborhood

The key to preventions lies in creating a safe environment in which to live. To do so, it is important to build a sense of community with your neighbors. Tight-knit communities look out for each other, care for one another’s well-being, and they are ultimately safer places to live for everyone involved. Being on friendly terms with your neighbors is an unofficial yet effective form of neighborhood watch:

  • When you are familiar with your neighbors and they are familiar with you, both parties will be more readily able to recognize guests and relatives, minimizing the chances that a stranger can enter either property undetected.
  • Friends look out for each other, naturally. It isn’t too much to ask a friend to keep an eye out for your home while you’re away, though it may seem uncomfortable to ask that favor of a stranger.
  • Have you heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child? That still rings true today. Parents can join forces to supervise children when they are out and about in different parts of the neighborhood, increasing vigilance and minimizing a delayed response to dangerous situations or events.
  • Many home care tasks are easier and safer when completed with the assistance of a friend; repairing planks on a deck, removing hazardous overhanging limbs, and other routine maintenance can help to make your rental a safer place for you and your guests.
  • When neighbors have a general idea of your routine activities and lifestyle, it is easier to identify suspicious activity in around your rental. This can be as simple as knowing that you don’t own a grill, so a sign of smoke on your property is a red flag.

Whether you are new to the community or you’ve lived there for a while, it is never too late to forge meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with your neighbors.

Own a pet? Renters insurance is your true companion

If dogs are a man’s best friend then renters insurance is the tie that binds.

Pets. We can spend hours watching YouTube videos of our furry, winged, and scaled companions doing some pretty amazing things. In addition to the love that they provide, many of us would admit that we like having pets around because they’re so lively and entertaining. Their curiosity and energy create some of the highlights of our days.

man holding his dog

Pets are also a major responsibility. Their maintenance and wellbeing are just part of the equation. Caring for your pets (and your guests in the presence of your pets) entails having reliable coverage with renters insurance. Resident Shield policies prepare you for the unexpected.

Under personal liability protection, policy holders receive a maximum of $100,000 of coverage in cases of personal liability claims. When your guest trips over the dog bowl and lands face first on the floor, we have  you covered. The provision also allows up to $25,000 in retribution for dog bites, which could help you and your roommates survive the early years of puppy training and house breaking.  If your guests are injured in any way while in your rental, Resident Shield furnishes up to $10,000 per incident and $500 per person in coverage.

Ideally, you won’t need any of that, right? A few helpful pointers can prevent accidents in your rental.

  • Never underestimate dog training. Dogs that can remain focused and poised under pressure are less likely to react adversely to guests and hectic situations in the home.
  • Have you pet spayed or neutered. Male pets are often more aggressive when they are ready to mate. Females tend to be more skittish, which may make them unpredictable.
  • Create a safe place for pet. When the house is crowded with guests, it’s a good idea to have a safe place for your pet such as a designated room. High-stress situations may cause your pet to act erratically, reacting instinctively when afraid or confused. That could be dangerous to your pet and guests.
  • Advise potential guests and roommates that you have a pet. A simple warning could prevent the onset of allergic reactions and respiratory problems.
  • Add additional security features to cages, aquariums, and other holding containers when guests are present, particularly if your pet has a tendency to escape.

 

 

 

Smart tips for subletting

In case you need to leave town but don’t want to lose the apartment you’re currently living in, you might be a great candidate for subletting. But before you leap in, it’s advisable that you get the full picture of the risks you might face and what you could do to minimize them.

  • Receive permission. If you’re a renter and wish to sublet you place without talking to your landlord first, you could be in violation of the terms of your lease. Yes, that means you could be evicted. Review your lease and talk to your landlord before subletting. The best scenario is the one where you get your landlord’s permission in writing.

  • Consider the risks. So, your landlord gave you permission to sublet. However, this does not put you in the clear. Subletting your home can also mean theft and serious damage that you’ll be responsible for. Think hard about this one as there are plenty of horror stories out there about sublets gone awfully wrong.
  • Search among non-strangers first. Reach out to your family, friends, work/school colleagues. However, even if someone in your close circle wants to sublet from you, it’s still wise to follow the same steps you would take to make your home ready for a stranger. This means that if priceless piece of furniture you own gets damaged by a good friend or relative, you’ll have to deal with all the broken pieces—of the furniture and your relationship with that person. Save yourself the trouble and take away anything that would upset you seeing scratched, dinged or broken and place them somewhere safe. Better safe than sorry, right?
  • Limit your pool of potential renters. Try reaching out to a local university that needs to house visiting professors, for example. See what you can find in your community.
  • Put on the landlord coat. Don’t be soft just because you’re offering a short-term rental. You need to be just as careful as a landlord looking for a long-term tenant: ask for a security deposit, check references and have them sign the rental agreement.
  • Document your place. Take photos of your home before you sublet it and get a move-in checklist signed. The checklist should contain details about the condition of your place when they move in and when you walk-through the apartment at the end of their stay, hopefully you won’t have any arguments over damages.
  • Keep an eye out, even from afar. If possible, have a trusted person available to regularly check on your home and be available to your renter, if anything goes wrong while you are away. You can either pay this person, or take them out for a fabulous dinner when you return.
  • Create a reference notebook. It should contain information such as your home’s little quirks, the Wi-Fi password, and day of trash pickup. This is also the perfect place to include the contact info for someone local the renter can reach if anything is wrong, as well as restaurant recommendations, markets and entertainment activities.
  • Be at peace with your decision. Review everything from options to risks before committing to subletting your home. There are, of course, guidelines you can set, but if the idea makes you nervous, don’t do it.

Leasing terminology for apartment renters

Some of our readers are preparing this year to rent a new apartment, maybe even their first. The To Do list is extensive and takes a lot of time to complete, but it’s as important to make sure the terms of the apartment lease are clearly understood.

Typically, most lease documents are clear and without unexpected surprises, but just for your peace of mind, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and what restrictions you might obey to as a resident of your new apartment.

We recommend you double check the following before signing your lease:

Start and end date of tenancy—also known as the periodic tenancy, means to check that your move in and move out dates correspond with the time frame expected/requested.

Rental price and deposit amount—check to see that the dollar amounts match up to what you’ve discussed with the leasing agent.

Contingencies for post-lease continuance—simply put, in some apartments you’ll be able to rent month to month after you have completed your first year of residency; in others you will be asked to sign another year-long lease or a shorter term lease, such as six months.

Terms of anticipated increases—most likely this won’t pertain to your first year of tenancy because you agree to rent the apartment at the monthly price stated in the agreement. However, read thoroughly to make sure there aren’t any situations or causes in which the landlord has the right to raise the rent. Look for a standard second-year increase in the lease agreement.

Reasons for termination—this section has to be detailed and very specific. Be on the lookout for vague loopholes under which a landlord could evict you for some cause or without violation of the lease terms.

Move-out penalties—in the event that you need to leave the apartment before the lease is up, will you be subjected to an additional fee?

Tenant-responsible repairs—in the lease is should be clear who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the residence, and it should not be the tenant.

Renters Insurance—there are apartment complexes that mandate renters insurance. It’s a wise thing to have because it offers you protection, but it may be required by your lease as well.

Policies about subletting or visitors—before you move in and start having guests over, make sure you know what rules you’ve agreed to abide by.

Tips for successfully filing personal liability claims

When the unthinkable happens, it pays to be prepared.

You never imagined a day like this would come. Without warning, the unthinkable happens. A guest or roommate sustains injuries while in your home. In the bustle of the action, it is important to remain composed and take proper measures to document the event. Preparedness and documentation rest at the center of every successfully filed personal liability claim.

 

Insurance Not Risk

To prepare your file, consider the following:

What happened? Take a moment to create an accurate and detailed description of events. This may involve compiling the insights of multiple guests at the scene of the incident. Even the smallest details may be pertinent to your claim so it is better to be too thorough than too vague.

Who was involved? Collect detailed information of those involved in the accident, most importantly the contact information of the injured parties. It may be necessary to contact these individuals throughout the process of your filing.

Where did it occur? Depending on the location of the event, your personal renters insurance may cover damages. In other instances, the coverage may be provided by the landlord’s insurance. To settle any ambiguity, be as specific as possible about the location of the incident.

How was it handled? Some emergencies simply can’t wait. In those cases, it may be necessary to have the problem resolved before you are able to complete a claim. It is important to keep record of how the problem was handled. Did you call a taxi or ambulance? Which hospital was the injured party taken to? Did the incident make the rental uninhabitable for any duration of time, forcing you to stay in a hotel? It is vital to keep all receipts as they will determine your reimbursement. Insist upon receiving receipts when none are offered.

Take photographs. Use photographs as part of your documentation package. Images from a camera phone suffice as well as any. It may be helpful to add captions or descriptions for each of the photos to help processors understand what they are seeing in each image. Do not alter photos.

Your Resident Shield renters insurance representative is here to assist you every step of the way. Simply contact us to have your questions answered.

National Consumer Protection Week: Protect yourself year round

March 6-12 is National Consumer Protection Week, so we thought to take a moment and remind renters nationwide to protect themselves as consumers. We’ve compiled a list with tips that make renting a lot less stressful.

Learn to avoid rental scams—scammers are known to advertise rentals that don’t exist (they’re also known as phantom rentals) to fool people into sending money before they discover the truth. The signs are easy to spot: they’ll ask you to wire money, the security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed the lease agreement.

Report scams by contacting local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Look after your finances and credit score. Look after your money and pay as little as possible for the apartment you want. Nearly half of renters are paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent, according to a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. There is financial counseling which helps individuals strengthen their credit and establish savings goals; this leads toward having enough money for the security deposit and overall helps improve credit scores.

Renters Insurance is a must to protect your belongings from loss or accidental damage. Renters insurance protects your possessions whether you’re living in an apartment or renting a house. In case of fire or water leak, the landlord’s insurance will only cover the building itself, but you’d still need to replace your own items if they were damaged.

Watch out when selecting the moving company. If your friends and family can’t help you move, research moving companies and find one that you can trust. Check their reviews and social media, and of course, ask for recommendations. The right one will make your moving experience a smooth one.

Managed property or renting from a landlord? Expectations and peace of mind vary from one individual to another. To answer this question, weigh the pros and cons of both, and each has plenty.

Act like a homeowner. Acting like you’ll be living there for a few years will make you more aware of the space’s qualities and shortcomings. Moreover, this might even make you gut-check if you wish to rent versus own. Compare prices and long-term investment for each path.

Easy safety tips for electronics

It’s hard to live without electronics. Enjoy them in safety with these simple tips.

Electronic fires and other dangers can cause serious damage to your rental. In many cases, these accidents are preventable with the knowledge and application of a few safety tips.

outlets

Appropriate Outlets– All outlets must be properly grounded, accompanied by the correct power ratings. You can often check outlet safety during your property inspection. For added safety, use a surge protector with multiple outlets (sometimes called a sister plug or power strip). These units protect your electronics while providing you with multiple outlets for your computer, printer, speakers, and other devices.

Never overload your power strip. For example, it is not safe to have multiple extension cords—which host multiple devices—connected to a single power strip. Stick to a one-to-one outlet to device ratio for optimal safety.

Common Sense Water Safety– Do not operate electronics while you are wet (such as reaching out of the bathtub or pool to adjust the volume on the radio). Though it’s tempting, avoid drinking beverages while operating your laptop and other electronic devices. Aside from ruining the device, you could also risk electrocution and fire.

Breathing Room– Provide electronics with ample air circulation. Do not place electronics against window curtains or block them into an entertainment system or storage unit without proper ventilation.

Common Sense Repair Safety– Aside from changing a light bulb, leave electrical work to the professionals. If you are experiencing frequent power outages, the sporadic dimming of lights in your rental and other problems contact your landlord or leasing agent with your concerns. He or she should contact the appropriate professional to fix the problem.

Cord Care– Discard and replace damaged cords immediate. Electrical tape is not a reliable solution for damaged cords. Do not run damaged cords under carpets or tuck them into the opening along the baseboards.

The superpowers of renters insurance

There are plenty of reasons why renters insurance is a smart move, and you probably know most of them, but did you know that you can actually take more from your renters insurance other than claims for fire incidents and burglaries?

We’ve compiled a list with some of the most unexpected, but financial painful, scenarios that might be the last piece you need to pick up the phone and call a renters insurance agent.

  1. You’re back from your much deserved vacation only to realize that your luggage gets lost, again. Who you gonna call?
  2. Your darling Fido got fed up with everyone telling you and him how adorable and cute he is that when the 300th tourist tried to take a photo of him, he gave the tourist more than just a snap of his great figure, but a tattoo of his teeth on his arm. Hello, renters insurance!
  3. Your friend comes over for some delicious home-cooked meal. The trouble is that you forget to take your bag of groceries out of the way and he trips over it, breaking a newly capped tooth. Both of you can go ahead and smile, your renters insurance will take care of that.
  4. You then went to the dry cleaners where your clothes were not just cleaned, but went up in smoke. This is when you wish you can still find another Cashmere sweater at 70 percent off.
  5. Rush hour—of course you didn’t see that guy dressed in neon orange overalls and ran into him with your bike, and of course he sued you. Hello again, renters insurance!
  6. Bikes are not allowed inside your apartment as per your lease agreement, thus you got a storage unit. Somehow, someone found their way into your basement storage and left on your new mountain bike. Now what? Thanks for your service, renters insurance!
  7. You’re really proud of your new flat screen TV. But then a power surge hits your building, frying the 42-inch LCD. Yes, you’re right, your renters insurance could get you a new one.
  8. After all the hassle, all you want is just some relaxation. You turn on the water to fill your bathtub, but remember that the wine bottle you opened needs decanting. You head to the kitchen to deal with it, but forget about the running water and the tub overflows in the apartment below. Oops!
  9. Someone in your building plugs too many appliances into an outlet and sets the apartment on fire. You have to vacate yours and stay in a hotel while repairs and cleaning are completed. No, you’re not paying for the hotel – that’s what renters insurance is for.

A little maintenance now, fewer problems later

Maintenance. It’s one little word that seems to require a lot of our time and effort. For that, we tend to avoid regular maintenance on the things that matter most. For renters, that simply isn’t an option.

two electricians working

As a renter, having basic maintenance issues resolved can be as easy as calling the management office. Even if you have to call back multiple times and send emails, it is important to get small issues fixed as soon as possible. If management is unresponsive, have electronic documentation of your efforts to contact them.

Why? Consider this scenario: every time that you turn on the light in the kitchen, you notice that the other lights in the home dim. You know that there is an electrical problem and you’ve contacted the office but you haven’t gotten a response, nor have you pushed for one. You turned off the light before leaving this morning, heard a strange click, but thought nothing of it as you rushed out of the door.

You returned that evening to nothing. Electrical problems lead to a fire. You and your neighbors have lost everything. Who is liable? Without documentation and proper insurance coverage it could be hard to pinpoint the responsible party in such a situation.

A little maintenance can go a long way when it comes to protecting yourself and your property from fire, flood, theft, and other dangers. Push for results from management and contact your insurance specialist to determine when it is appropriate to take matters into your own hands.