Renters insurance is like homeowners insurance, with the notable exception that it does not cover the place where you live – or, as it is known in insurance lingo, the "dwelling" and/or its structure. Some insurance companies will cover minor improvements you make to your rental unit.
Renters insurance is a win-win for both you, the tenant, and the landlord because you get liability insurance and the landlord's property receives protection against a pastiche of hazards ranging from fire and flood to theft and vandalism. Before buying renters insurance, do your homework and talk to the right people because there are several ways you can save money and pay a reduced premium.
Who Can Help Me?
First, contact your state's Department of Financial Services. Talk also to the Insurance Commissioner's Office to learn more about reputable insurance companies that provide renters insurance in your residence area. The Office can also give useful tips on those companies that specialize in renters insurance, guide you throughout the application process and help you make the right decision in the end. If needed, don't forget to reach out to your Better Business Bureau's local branch as well as nonprofits providing insurance guidance to see discount options that are available locally and fit your situation.
Should I Shop Around for Low-Premium Insurance?
Yes. You should shop, shop and shop before purchasing renters insurance. Take the directory of trustworthy insurance companies you received from your state's Insurance Commissioner's Office. Go through that list, calling each company if possible. If you have time, you can barnstorm the offices of two, three or four of the companies; talking to a "live" person is often better than poring over pages and pages of insurance legalese. Things to look for when shopping for renters insurance include reimbursement calculation, high-value items, coverage amounts, inventory, living expenses, covered risks and premium variables. You also can use online quote comparison tools like Progressive.com to evaluate factors like cost and affordability.
Can My Social Category Be a Plus?
Insurance companies often offer discounts and rewards programs to people in some social categories, such as seniors, the disabled, veterans and people working in a certain industry or holding a specific occupation – say, the federal government or union-backed professions or sectors in which there's a collective bargaining agreement in force. Talk to your insurance agent about premium savings programs that are available to someone like you.
Should I Opt for a Higher Deductible?
As with other types of insurance products, the higher the deductible you consent to pay when misfortune strikes, the lower the premium you pay. In other words, the insurance company is giving you a financial break at the end of each month, knowing that you would help cover the cost of damages if disaster occurs. The flipside is that you must have enough cash to cover the upfront expenses before your insurer steps in financially. For example, if your deductible is $10,000, make sure you have that much money saved or are in the process of gradually building up a nest egg that is equal to or exceeds the deductible amount. That way, you would have covered both angles of the insurance risk-coverage equation.
Can I Save by Signing Up for Electronic Bill Payment?
You may lower your renters insurance bill by signing up for electronic bill payment, meaning you authorize the insurance company to automatically debit your bank account on a certain day each month. Make sure you have enough money in the account around your chosen date to avoid financial charges. To prevent non-sufficient-funds fees, set the date to coincide with credit events in your bank accounts, such as direct deposits, income tax refunds and interest credits. By registering for automatic bill payment, you save the insurance company some administrative costs, and the company would be happy to pass on those savings to you by way of lower premiums.
Would Safety Systems Help Lower My Premium?
Buying and installing safety systems in your abode will help decrease your renters insurance bill. Talk to your insurance agent to see how much you can save on premiums by setting specific systems, depending on your residence area and its safety profile. Safety systems run the technological gamut, from alarm image verification and electronic surveillance to control panels.
Should I Buy and Install Dead Bolt Locks, Sprinkler Systems and Smoke Alarms?
Like safety systems, dead bolt locks are part of the security apparatus that brings a smile to your insurance agent and peace of mind to you. Go to your local home-improvement store or online retailer to learn more about the various types of locks, price ranges and the complexity and depth of security each offers. The goal here is to show your insurance company that your house is secured and that the risk of theft or vandalism is low. The same analytical approach is true for sprinkler systems and smoke alarms.
Would My Non-Smoking Lifestyle Help?
Insurance companies certainly want you to pose the least insurable risk, and when it comes to renters insurance, smoking is a top risk criterion because a lot of accidental fires are caused by smokers. So, have a discussion with your insurance agent to see how you may qualify for premium reduction if you're a non smoker.
Would the Renters Insurance Company Take my Credit Score Into Account?
Yes, it is major part of the application review process. When evaluating your policyholder application, the insurance company – like banks and other financial institutions – check your credit history to evaluate things like creditworthiness, current indebtedness and credit score. The higher your credit score, the lower premium the insurance company you would receive, all other things being equal. Your credit score comes from various bits of credit data, such as new credit, types of credit used, total amount owed, length of credit history and payment records. To get more information about your credit score, use the FICO Score Simulator or contact the top three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
To save on renters insurance, clean up your credit and lifestyle, avoiding things like smoking and other hazardous actions that could wreak havoc on your house or apartment – think fire or vandalism. You also can decrease your insurance premium by signing up for automatic bill payment; establishing state-of-the-art security systems; and talking regularly to people as diverse as your insurance agent, personnel in your state's Insurance Commissioner's Office and insurance advisers in your local Better Business Bureau branch.