If you’re among the 44 million Americans who rent their homes, you may appreciate not having to deal with things like property maintenance or homeowners insurance. However, it’s important to note that while your landlord’s insurance policy covers things like structural damage, it doesn’t offer protection for your personal belongings.
If your property is damaged in a covered incident, you can request compensation by filing a renters insurance claim with your insurance company. A renters insurance policy covers your belongings if your home is burglarized, vandalized, or damaged by a fire, storm, or another covered incident. Considering that there are an average of 2.5 million housebreaking incidents every year and a home fire is reported approximately every 89 seconds, having this coverage can provide protection from these common events.
Renters insurance policies are broken down into three parts, each with its own coverage amounts: personal property, liability, and additional living expenses. Learn how rental insurance policies work and some helpful renters insurance claim tips.
How Do I File a Renters Insurance Claim?
Following all the required steps can help your renters insurance claim go as smoothly as possible. While the length of time it takes to process a claim varies depending on your insurer and type of claim filed, you can help keep things moving along by ensuring you are prepared for every step of the process.
1. File a police report
If you’ve been the victim of a crime such as theft, burglary, vandalism, or a dangerous event like a fire or explosion, it’s important to contact the police so you can get an official police report. Renters insurance companies typically require a copy of this report as part of their investigation. This helps to prove that the event happened and back up your description of what happened.
However, if the damage was not caused by a criminal act or dangerous event, such as if your home has a burst pipe or storm damage, there’s typically no need to contact the police. In this case, you can get started with the next step.
2. Take photos and notes of the damage
Start making a list of each item that was damaged and take detailed notes. If you can do it safely, take plenty of photos and videos as soon as you can after the event occurs. This can help back up your claims by clearly showing the insurance company the state of your items.
3. Gather documents
If you can, locate your renters insurance policy and read through it. Here you can find important details, including whether the incident that occurred should be covered and the amount of your deductible. Your policy should also include contact information for your insurance agent or carrier, as well as instructions for filing a renters insurance claim.
You can also begin gathering purchase receipts, order confirmation emails, or any other documentation that shows the value of your damaged items. If you’re making a medical or liability claim, be sure to get copies of the medical bills or a legal statement showing what you owe.
4. Contact your insurance company and complete claims forms
Once you have your documentation ready, contact your insurance company and initiate your claim. As a general rule, do not wait too long between the event and filing a claim. Some policies may have a deadline of 48 to 72 hours after the damage occurs to file your claim.
The insurance representative can provide you with the required claims forms. Be sure to fill them out accurately and with as much detail as possible.
5. Make urgent repairs as necessary
It’s important to contact your landlord and let them know what happened, particularly if there are any urgent repairs needed. For example, if a burst pipe is still leaking or a burglar kicked in the door, either you or your landlord should make temporary repairs as soon as possible. If there are any expenses involved in making the repairs, hold on to the receipts so you can request reimbursement from your insurance company.
6. Meet with an insurance adjuster
When you file your claim, your insurance carrier may schedule an appointment for an adjuster to come to your home to assess the damage and determine how much you’re eligible to receive. This is common practice for large claims and major damage, but may not be necessary if you’re making a smaller claim.
If you learn that an adjuster is coming, resist the urge to clean up damage or throw away any ruined items. The adjuster needs to see the damage in its entirety and have an accurate display of what occurred.
7. Get quotes for repair or replacement
The next step is to begin gathering repair or replacement estimates for your damaged items. Having this information gives you an idea of the amount of compensation you may expect and can give you leverage if you receive an unsatisfactory settlement offer from your insurance company.
8. Review your settlement
Once your claim is approved, the insurance company offers a settlement. The amount you’re offered depends in part on whether your policy is for actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost. With an ACV policy, you’re compensated for the depreciated value of the items. However, a replacement cost policy compensates you based on the current market value of your damaged items.
If you’re not happy with what you’ve been offered, you may be able to appeal. In this case, submitting the quotes you’ve gathered could influence the final decision.
9. Receive your claim payout
Once you and your insurance carrier have agreed on the settlement amount, the company will provide you with your insurance payout. The process for receiving a claim payout depends on several factors, including whether you’re being reimbursed for actual cash value or replacement cost.
For ACV reimbursements, you typically receive a check for the compensation amount and are free to do what you wish with it. In this case, you may decide to replace the items or do something else with the money.
Replacement cost settlements are handled differently. These may be paid in phases, with the carrier providing an initial check for part of the claim and then paying out the rest once you submit proof that you’ve purchased the items and documentation of the actual cost.
What Events Warrant Filing a Renters Insurance Claim?
The three parts of a renters insurance policy provide coverage for a wide variety of events. Personal property coverage provides reimbursement for personal items when the loss occurs due to a covered event, such as theft, fire, lightning, wind damage, explosions, and smoke damage.
Personal liability coverage offers compensation if someone is injured or their property is damaged and you are at fault. For example, this may apply if someone falls in your shower or if your dog bites a guest. Your liability coverage can also help cover your legal costs associated with the incident.
The additional living expenses portion of your policy helps pay for expenses above and beyond your normal living expenses if you cannot stay in your rental home as a result of a covered peril. For example, this may apply if the roof is severely damaged in a storm and you need to stay in a hotel for a week while it’s being repaired.
It’s important to note that issues such as structural damage to the home typically do not fall under the umbrella of a renters insurance policy. Instead, it is the landlord’s responsibility to file these types of claims with their own insurance policy.
Will Making a Renters Insurance Claim Impact My Current Rates?
When it comes to claims and premium increases, renters insurance works similarly to homeowners or auto insurance. If the carrier pays compensation for a claim, there’s a chance your policy premiums may increase. The amount of the increase typically depends on the type of the claim, the circumstances that led to it, the severity of the incident, and how many claims you typically file.
Renters Insurance Claim Tips: Avoid These Common Reasons for Denied Renters Claims
There are several reasons why your renters insurance claim may be denied. Some common examples include:
- You haven’t met your deductible. Policyholders need to pay the stated deductible amount before the insurance company makes payments.
- The damage isn’t covered. Your policy may specifically exclude certain perils or high-value items. Also, if the damage is structural, it may be covered by your landlord’s insurance policy instead of your renters insurance policy.
- You can’t prove ownership or value. Sometimes, the insurer needs to see proof that you were the owner of the items you’re claiming and how much they’re worth. If you cannot provide the necessary receipts or the items weren’t listed on your home inventory, your claim could be denied.
- You didn’t update your address with the insurance company. When you move, it’s important to let your insurer know right away. Otherwise, your claim could be denied, even if you’ve been paying your premiums.
- You waited too long to file. Your policy indicates how long you have to file your claim. Waiting too long is typically a basis for denial.
To avoid claim denials, be sure to thoroughly read your renters insurance policy. This helps you understand what is and isn’t covered under your policy, your deductible amount, and more.
It’s also important to create a home inventory that lists out the items you possess along with their estimated value. Keep receipts or a photo of each item so you can provide proof of ownership. Finally, be sure to keep your policies up to date and accurate so you can minimize the chances of unnecessary claim denials.
What To Do if Your Renters Insurance Claim Is Denied
If your renters insurance claim is denied, the first step is to find out why. If you review your denial letter and your policy and find that the company followed the policy’s terms in rejecting your claim, then you may not have recourse. However, depending on the situation, there may be options.
If you filed your claim incorrectly, you may be able to resubmit your claim. In other cases, it may be possible to negotiate with the insurer or file an appeal. In extreme cases, you may consider contacting an attorney who can help you determine whether you have a legal case.