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Peace of Mind, Brought to You By... Renter's Insurance?

My husband’s job requires us to move more than most. In fact, we’ve received mail at eight different addresses in the past three years. One of those addresses, a hotel. Last summer we stayed in an extended stay hotel for 12 weeks due to training for his job. There are a lot of financial considerations when staying in a hotel for this length of time. The thing I didn’t expect? 

For the hotel to catch fire. 

In the dead of the night we woke to the fire alarm blasting in our room. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been pulled from sleep by a commercial fire alarm, but 0/10 would recommend. Staying in an extended stay hotel we were not strangers to the fire alarm. A kitchenette in every room meant this was a weekly occurrence. Even though this was our first middle of the night experience, we were numb to the routine. We grabbed a room key and our dog, but none of our belongings, and headed outside. 

Well, as it turns out, the fire was real. (In fact, for the duration of our stay half of the hotel remained under construction due to the collateral water damage from the fire.) Standing in the parking lot watching the firemen walk out of the building sopping wet from helmet to boot I started to mentally tally my possible renters insurance claim. I didn’t know the extent of the damage to our room but I did know the equipment for my husband’s work alone would cost thousands to repair. It wasn’t until I stood at the front desk in my pajamas waiting for a new room key that I realized not everyone shared my view on making a claim on my renter’s insurance. 

“You better believe if my stuff was wet the hotel would be paying for my night stay, paying for new stuff, and I wouldn’t stop until I was reimbursed.”

I turned around to see a middle aged man talking outloud to a lobby full of people. It was in that moment I decided to not engage him. But please know, he was wrong. 

The hotel catching fire was the fault of another guest, not negligence of management. It is up to you as an individual to be sure your belongings are adequately covered by your insurance. Know your rights before you become a victim of a peril. Though there are few cases that would make the hotel liable for loss, this was not one of them. A hotel almost always has zero responsibility for your belongings, similar to a landlord if you rent your living quarters. 

If you rent your home/apartment know your landlord carries insurance, but on the property only. If the premise catches fire, floods, or if your belongings are stolen, it’s your responsibility to make yourself whole. You can choose to transfer this risk of loss to an insurance company. 

Enter, renters insurance. 

Renters insurance can cover specific dollar amounts and can carry riders for valuable personal property (think wedding rings and collectibles). Not all policies are created equal and it’s very important to ask your agent questions, read through your policy, and truly understand your liability. In my case, I knew my renters insurance covered my items away from my home which gave me peace of mind as we waited hours to be able to access the damages.

Though policies can vary, it’s common to have a small deductible and small monthly premium for a specific dollar amount of coverage. Other coverages can include personal liability and medical payments to others if injured as a result of your actions.

Knowing what’s covered under your policy is also extremely important. Common coverage includes clothing, electronics, furniture, and miscellaneous household goods.

Lastly, know under what circumstances your items are covered. Most policies cover against theft, fire, vandalism, and explosion. But do you need to carry special coverage for flood or other natural disasters depending on where you live?  

Again, no two companies or policies are created equal. If you rent your home/apartment and don’t carry renters insurance tally up your loss in the event of a tragedy. If your valuables were stolen or if your unit was damaged due to fire, would you be able to cover your losses? If not, it might be worth looking into renters insurance. Remember, your agent is there to help so if you aren’t sure about jargon in your policy, just ask. It’s far better to know where you stand before you find yourself standing in a hotel lobby, in the middle of the night, wearing your pajamas, with water running from your ceiling like a waterfall.