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Does Rental Insurance Cover Theft?

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Whether your laptop was stolen from your apartment, your bike was taken from your building's garage or even your backpack was snatched from your hands on the subway, a theft is a shocking violation. While it's a nerve-wracking experience to be a crime victim, you may also be wondering, does renter insurance cover theft? You'll be relieved to know that if you have renters' insurance, you'll most likely be reimbursed for the monetary damage.

While your landlord has a policy that covers the building you live in, your renters' insurance policy covers your belongings and provides liability protection for you personally. Not only does renters insurance cover some of your personal possessions in your home, but your policy may also cover your belongings even if they are stolen from outside of your home.

But before anything goes missing, be sure to buy and review a rental insurance policy so you understand your coverage.

How to Get Reimbursed for a Stolen Item

If you're victimized at home, you'll need to tell your landlord, contact the police and make a claim with your renter's insurance company. In some states, it's even mandatory to contact your landlord about a theft.

Your landlord needs to know if something was stolen from your home or in another part of the property such as a garage or common area. If damage was done to the property during the theft, such as a shattered window or a broken lock, it may be your landlord's responsibility to pay for repairs. Your landlord may also want to check in with your neighbors to alert them to the crime.

Contact the police as soon as you discover something has been stolen. You'll need a police report to make your renter's insurance claim.

When you contact your insurance company, ask about the deadline to file a claim. For many companies, you need to complete your claim form between 48 and 72 hours after your loss occurred.

It's more likely that your claim will be paid if you can show that you were careful to protect your belongings. For example, if the police report shows that you left your laptop unattended in a coffee shop for an hour or that your windows were unlocked while you were out of town, your insurance company may find that your negligence contributed to the loss.

How Much will My Rental Insurance Cover?

The amount of reimbursement you'll receive depends on your renters' insurance coverage and your deductible. That's why it's so important to do a careful evaluation of your possessions before you decide how much renters' insurance to buy.

Your deductible, which is the amount you'll pay out of pocket if you must make a claim, has an impact on your renters' insurance premiums. The higher your deductible, the lower your premiums will be. But make sure you can comfortably afford to pay your deductible if your need to make a claim. The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends at least a $500 deductible and says that a $1,000 deductible could save as much as 25 percent on your premiums. But you'll need to pay your deductible for every claim.

Prepare for the Worst and Hope for the Best

To figure how much renters' insurance to buy, it's best to take a complete inventory of your home. Keep in mind, this inventory is for all your coverage, not just theft. That means you should include what it would cost to replace everything in the event of a complete loss such as fire, not just individual items that someone might steal.

You can use an app or notebook to make a list of everything you own and what it might cost to replace it if it was stolen. If you have receipts for anything, keep them in a folder so you can find them easily if you need to make a claim. It's smart to take photos or videos of your home, especially of things that might tempt a thief such as electronics.

Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost

Most insurance companies offer a choice of cash value coverage, which reimburses you for what you spent on an item minus depreciation based on how long you've owned it, and replacement cost coverage. While it may be a little more costly, replacement cost insurance will pay for a new computer or smart TV, not just what you spent on yours a few years ago. III says replacement cost coverage costs about 10 percent more than cash value coverage.

Does Renter Insurance Cover Theft Away from Home?

Of course, things can get stolen anywhere, not just at home. Most renters' policies offer something called “off premises" coverage for your things. So, if you're on vacation and something gets stolen from your hotel room, it may be covered. While your car insurance covers damage to your car, your renters' insurance will cover items stolen from it.

In fact, your rental insurance may even cover things that you don't own. For example, if you borrowed a friend's laptop and it's stolen from your home or car, your policy may reimburse you for that, allowing you, in turn, to reimburse your friend.

The amount you'll be reimbursed for items stolen from someplace other than your home may be capped, according to III, often at 10 percent of the total amount of your personal possessions coverage.

Does Renter Insurance Cover Special Items?

You may be more worried about having something expensive or unusual stolen from your home than you are about your clothes or your kitchen supplies. If you have jewelry, art, a bike, a special camera or other expensive item, you may need to buy an “endorsement" to increase your coverage for that item. Check your insurance policy to see how much coverage you have for individual items. Often, renters' insurance policies will provide up to $1,500 for jewelry or other expensive items if they're stolen, according to III. An endorsement will increase the amount you may be reimbursed for the item you cover.

A renters' insurance policy will cover your belongings in your home and away from home to provide reimbursement if something is stolen. To make sure you have the appropriate renters' insurance for your needs, you can contact a Westfield agent for a review of your insurance policies.