Renter's insurance - what happens when you make a claim? is it worth it?
June 22, 2015 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever had renter's insurance? What happens when you make a claim? Do you have to have documentation of buying the thing you are claiming? Does your premium go up if you make a claim, and if so, by how much?

Mostly trying to figure out if having renter's insurance is worth the hassle of dealing with insurance if I ever need it.

I don't own that much stuff, maybe $5k total to replace everything I have. Most expensive items I have are a nice computer, a nice bike, and an iPhone (plus a car which is already insured). I am lucky enough to live in an area relatively free of natural disasters (no tornados, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, or earthquakes to speak of). I have plenty of savings, so while $5k isn't chump change, it's something I could afford to spend if I suddenly lost everything.

I'm looking at a quote of $100/year for renter's insurance for $15k coverage with $500 deductible, which seems eminently reasonable as insurance goes.

But suppose my bike actually gets stolen or my iPhone gets wet. How annoying is it to go through the process of making a claim? How much documentation do they want? Do you need to document everything you own, its replacement cost, and its current condition before you can make a claim? (That sounds pretty annoying.) Will your premiums immediately go up if you do make a claim? By how much? For my bike in particular, I purchased it for $600 but then made another $600 worth of modifications to it, replaced the entire drivetrain, etc. - are they going to believe that?

It seems to me dealing with insurance would only add to the stress of having to replace your stuff, especially if you have to argue with them about how much money you think they should give you. The real hassle is in having to find a replacement right now, which may or may not be equivalent or remotely the same price, and insurance can't really help you with that kind of stress.

I just... I have a really hard time believing that it's worth it, but so many people seem to think that it is. I'm interested in hearing stories from people who have actually made claims with renter's insurance.
posted by Questolicious to Work & Money (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I made a claim when I got doored riding my bike (somehow this was covered by my renter's insurance even though it happened nowhere near my apartment, but rather while I was riding around on the street) and the frame got sufficiently bent up that I was told that I'd have to replace it. (I didn't check this at the time, which is why I was making a claim on my renter's insurance rather than insisting that the driver's insurance handle it.)

It was absurdly smooth. I told the the insurance rep what had happened, filled out a report, and said how much replacing it would cost, and ... they sent me a check for that amount. They didn't even ask for a receipt. Perhaps this is just the magic of USAA, though.
posted by kenko at 5:36 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

It depends on your insurance. I have USAA and it was a breeze when I had my suitcase of stuff stolen from my boyfriend's car while traveling. I itemized the items with replacement cost and they gave me money fairly shortly.

Said boyfriend had Farmer's and his experience was a little less great. They gave him a devalued cost and he had the deductible to deal with.

Another friend who had USAA said she had no problem the first time she made a claim, but they were less amendable when she was robbed a second time under similar circumstances.

If your place were flooded or smoke damaged or something, your life would be enough hassle that it might be nice to have someone else give you money to buy a new mattress and furniture and stuff.

For anything especially valuable, itemizing and having pictures is helpful. I would do that with the bike.
posted by vunder at 5:40 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: How long did it take to get the money? Did your premium go up afterwards?
posted by Questolicious at 5:41 PM on June 22, 2015

How long did it take to get the money? Did your premium go up afterwards?

Maybe a month or so? No change in premium.
posted by vunder at 5:43 PM on June 22, 2015

I think you should be able to get a cheaper rate for the year (I live in a crazy expensive area and pay only around $50). I think it's worth it for major problems- if your apartment is robbed or burns down, for example. For smaller things, maybe not so much. I had a laptop stolen once that would have been covered, but the deductible was so high I didn't bother making a claim.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:44 PM on June 22, 2015

Some rental offices require it. Many policies protect the building against damage you do (fire, flood, etc), not just your own stuff. But yeah, USAA is the best.
posted by estelahe at 5:44 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, there are apps that making taking a quick inventory with photos pretty painless.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:45 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I made a claim on my renter's insurance when items were stolen from my car (that's not covered by car insurance, as a rule). I had inadvertently left the car unlocked, so there was no damage to the car. I submitted for replacement cost of a phone and a portable ham radio. I just submitted some simple paperwork and it was paid promptly. They paid the cost of buying a replacement phone outright, as well as the radio (less the deductible). That's the only claim I've ever made on it, but it still seems worthwhile to me. If my place burned down and I had to replace everything, it would add up. The personal liability insurance that comes with it is also something to consider if you have assets to protect. But if replacing all of your stuff wouldn't be a catastrophic expense for you, the insurance isn't a necessity.
posted by jkent at 5:47 PM on June 22, 2015

I don't have renter's insurance for if my bike gets stolen, I have renter's insurance for if a pipe bursts. If a car drives into my building (not a long shot at this intersection). Or if my building catches on fire. Especially if I accidentally started it. And it hurt someone. That's worth $100/year to me.

Most providers will tell you what the claims process is like. And as three_red_balloons says, inventories aren't all that painless. As for the premium, you're at $100: what's a big hike? $115?
posted by good lorneing at 5:48 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I went through the whole process to replace my electronics when I was burglarized. The process isn't that annoying and it's 100% worth having (given that it's not that expensive), but I do admit I expecting to get much more of $$$ value back.

If there's any official crime or theft, you have to provide police documentation. You'll need an officer to file a report and give you a copy. As for your items, you'll want to try to provide a receipt for all parts and services whenever possible or else they will go off of known MSRP. They will factor in depreciation based off of your purchase date and give you back whatever's left -- beyond your deductible.

Then, they gave me one calendar year to purchase replacements. When I did, I simply emailed my claims adjuster my replacement receipt and she sent me another check to help cover part of the costs. I forget how they calculated it, but I remember being disappointed that depreciation affected me so much (my Macbook was from 2011). My checks were processed and in hand within 10 days of each interaction. My premiums were not affected.
posted by doctordrey at 5:49 PM on June 22, 2015

I just recently had to replace some electronics (TV, DVR, etc) due to a freak lightning strike a few weeks ago. I had to send them model numbers of the items I was replacing. I sent them pictures too, but I don't remember if that was required. I submitted online, and then a representative called me back. They wanted me to have a repairman look at the TV and verify that it was dead, but in my case I was able to use the receipt I got from Comcast when I exchanged my wireless router that was also fried. They said that was proof enough, and direct deposited my money (minus my deductible). Super easy. I think it took about a week to process. And in my case totally worth it because I don't have the money to replace them otherwise.

If I had an item that I had made modifications to, I think I would just take pictures of the modifications and save them in case of future need. Receipts would be better, but photos should help.

Also, my apartment complex requires me to carry renters insurance. But I would never rent without it, because I can't afford to replace my big ticket items.
posted by rakaidan at 5:50 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Had renters insurance through all the years we rented. Only used it once, when the water heater in the upstairs unit bottomed out and all that water came through our ceiling. The apartment company covered drying the place out and fixing the damaged sheetrock. Renters insurance covered damaged furniture, and even some stuff that was stored in a closet that we didn't discover until some time after the fact.

We called the claim in and that was pretty much it. Also with USAA, so YMMV. Premiums did not go up as a result of filing the claim.
posted by jquinby at 5:53 PM on June 22, 2015

Response by poster: Do you need to file a police report in order to make a claim for an item that was stolen?
posted by Questolicious at 6:06 PM on June 22, 2015

I'm less concerned about my stuff getting stolen than I am about the liability aspect. I have a small dog who is super well behaved but also kind of an idiot, and I do want to be covered in the (unlikely but certainly possible) event that my dog does something like bolts down the stairs and trips up a neighbor who gets injured.

Happened to my parents. Dog slipped out of the house when the door was open, ran into the street, and startled a neighbor lady out jogging who fell and busted her face up pretty badly. My parents' homeowners insurance covered her medical bills. My renter's insurance would do the same.
posted by phunniemee at 6:23 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had a side gig for a few years repairing computers that had smoke or water damage from fires. Those with renters insurance were in a much better way - they could afford the data recovery, the could afford to have the smoke smell removed or the machine replaced, etc etc.. Insurance (at least as far I was knew - I always got paid) covered all of that.

Those without... Well, I did what I could, but they were often cost constrained.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:28 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've got State Farm, it was worth it last year when I was robbed and about $10k of computers and cameras were taken. It was relatively painless, I submitted some kind of form/spreadsheet with all of the receipts I had (most things were bought online, so I had that in my email). A couple of things here and there they just took my word on. They sent me a depreciated amount first, and then I had to submit receipts for replacement items once I bought them and they sent me the rest. That happened pretty fast, but I've had to call every time I send a new one in to make sure a human sees it.

I did file a police report (rather, my friend did as I was out of town). The insurance company definitely wanted it, and I followed up more with the police than I would have on my own, on the insurance company's request.

My premiums went up about $1 a month, but they inch up a little every year or so anyway.

I can tell you that I'm a lot happier paying my premium every month now. I've had it for 5 or 6 years and was starting to feel like it was a waste of money. It was really nice to have a major robbery (at least from my point of view) be basically nothing more than an administrative inconvenience.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 6:37 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and in my experience they were really reasonable about documentation, and didn't fight me over replacement price. I had some vintage bags stolen and they sent me replacement value for a new equivalent. A couple of hundred dollars is big to you, but not to the insurance company.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 6:42 PM on June 22, 2015

I don't own that much stuff, maybe $5k total to replace everything I have. Most expensive items I have are a nice computer, a nice bike, and an iPhone (plus a car which is already insured).

I think you're underestimating what it might cost you to completely replace all your belongings. Think of a fire- you would lose everything. Clothes, shoes, toiletries, kitchen utensils, furniture, everything. Unless you're so minimalist you live out of a suitcase, you have more than $5k worth of stuff.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:46 PM on June 22, 2015 [14 favorites]

And, adding to what ThePinkSuperhero is saying, insuring yourself for much more than you own is $8-10 more expensive per year than insuring how much you actually own/undervaluing your belongings.
posted by good lorneing at 6:52 PM on June 22, 2015

Renters insurance also covers you if someone gets hurt at your place.
Also, I just moved into a new place and paid way more than $5000 to fill it with furniture, toiletries, cleaning supplies, bath mats, sheets, towels, etc. and that's even considering I didn't need a whole new wardrobe or new computers.
posted by bleep at 7:25 PM on June 22, 2015

I've had two surprise floods in my apartment. One without renter's insurance and one with (CSAA). with is better. Renter's insurance paid for my hotel for two weeks while I was out of the apartment, and reimbursed for food, and for the electricity bill because they had to leave driers/blowers/what have you running in the apartment 24 hours a day for days on end.

As for reimbursement of stuff, I lost a lot of stuff in the first flood (with no insurance) and only about one piece of furniture in the second, so I didn't really need to get anything paid for. However, I would have had to have come up with receipts for what I paid for stuff I wanted money for, and I didn't have that stuff because I live in a town where it's easy to get cheap/free furniture, so...I didn't bother with that. Premiums didn't go up.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:32 PM on June 22, 2015

Liability insurance, which typically (always?) comes with renter's insurance (usually with a separate higher limit) is worthwhile too. If you somehow overflow the bathtub overnight or start a fire or something, you could be on the hook for a lot more than $5K in liability after damaging the building and your neighbors' property. The risk isn't very large here, but the consequences are pretty serious, so it makes sense to have some amount of liability insurance for yourself.

As far as documentation for valuable items, it might be worthwhile to take a couple quick pictures of your bike and its modifications, just so you have something on hand if you need it. Same for anything else you own that might be a likely target for theft, such as electronics or jewelry.
posted by zachlipton at 11:06 PM on June 22, 2015

The two main things, which have probably been covered already but also bear restating:

1. The deductible. A policy with a 2k deductible is fucking useless. If your laptop gets stolen, and you probably have a laptop that cost less then the deductible, what's the point?(Note: this happened to me, i wasn't the one carrying the insurance on the place so i wasn't aware this was the deductible) I don't think i'd ever go higher than like, $500.

2. Depreciated value vs replacement cost. I wouldn't even bother paying for insurance that was depreciated value ever again. It usually comes out to less than what you could even buy a somewhat worn version of whatever your thing was on craigslist. If my ceiling leaks and my $1200 CoolThing is ruined, i want to go out and just buy a freaking new one. Not get some paltry amount and try and find a 5 year old one on craigslist.

#1 can be flexed if you really only want to insure against like, your place getting ransacked by thieves or burning down. #2 i would seriously never bother on. I'd rather pay twice as much to have an actually useful service.
posted by emptythought at 3:15 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The policy I have also will cover alternate living arrangements if my apartment burns down/is flooded/for some reason I can't live there. Given the cost of hotel rooms and the hassle of finding a new apartment on short notice, that alone makes it worth it to me.
posted by epanalepsis at 6:53 AM on June 23, 2015

The house my boyfriend and I were renting several years ago burned down, and our (I think about) $15 per month renters' insurance paid for us to be relocated for three months, and full replacement value of all our non-salvageable items (they also paid for professional restoration services for our salvageable items). I will never, ever not have insurance (and in fact, once we later bought a house, we possibly over-insured, although because we selected the additional water damage coverage we were compensated when our refrigerator line leaked into our walls and bedroom while we were away on a three week vacation).

We have pretty bad luck with houses, apparently (neither the fire nor the leak were our fault in any way), but these situations would have cost us probably $100,000 to fix ourselves, and we were completely covered by insurance (minus a $2000 deductible in the case of the leak). I think the fire (renter's insurance) deductible was only $500, but I'm not positive about that. 100% worth it.
posted by odayoday at 7:26 AM on June 23, 2015

I have made a claim on my renter's insurance and I was so glad I had it. I had an apartment water leak that soaked my floor and damaged all of the wooden furniture touching the floor (so, all of it) and the items were not cleanable/repairable. I had to move out temporarily, and ended up making a claim for several thousand dollars, not just for replacement of my possessions, but for the cost of staying in a hotel for a few nights, spoiled food, laundry service for soiled fabrics, etc. They paid it within a week and I swear those people on the other end of the line in the middle of the night are trained crisis counselors. They were the ones who walked me through all the little things I would not have thought of as a loss and helped me get paid for them. I never would have considered that they'd pay for my hotel room, for instance, or the cost of my spoiled food. You might have enough in savings to replace the $5000 worth of things you own, but you may not have enough in savings to keep you afloat when you have to continue your life after whatever caused you to lose all your possessions.

Since you have stuff like a modified bike, you want to ensure that you get insurance for replacement value rather than actual cash value. But since your possessions are only valued by you at $5000 the documentation shouldn't be too onerous, and once you do it once, you only have to update when you get new things. It's worth your time to have good coverage.

My own rate did not go up after making that claim, even though it was several thousand dollars. The insurance agency also worked with me on keeping the costs low; for instance, I got "credit" off of the claim for them to pay the hotel directly instead of me paying for the hotel and then getting reimbursed. They coordinated directly with my HR department to recoup me lost wages. It was stressful and terrible, but my agent made it immeasurably better.

Renter's insurance is worth it. The rate you were quoted is great. Do it.
posted by juniperesque at 8:39 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

One other thing renter's insurance will generally cover is losses or damage as a result of moving. Moving's such a likely time for random disaster of all sorts that I think it's worth it to have insurance for that time in particular.

I've been lucky in not having any reason to make a claim myself yet, but I've known enough people who've suffered huge losses as a result of disasters they couldn't predict or stop (fire, upstairs tenant left town and their pipes broke, etc.) that I don't want to end up in that situation when I could avoid it for roughly the same annual cost as Amazon Prime.
posted by asperity at 8:47 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I went without renter's insurance for a couple of years, then bought a policy. Within two months my home was broken into (while my girlfriend and I were sleeping in a nearby bedroom - never heard them) and several things were stolen. Payment was quick and painless. (Insurance companies are not going to quibble much about a couple of thousand dollars.) They even paid for my roommate's electric guitar.

One perk of renter's insurance, like homeowner's insurance, is that you have liability insurance that applies if you are sued for some injury you may have caused, wherever you are. That is, it is not limited to injuries occurring at your apartment. That alone is worth the modest cause.
posted by megatherium at 3:30 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

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