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How to file a renters insurance claim

Get your renters insurance claim quickly processed and approved, so you can get your check fast

If you’ve experienced a theft or property damage then you need to know how to file a renters insurance claim to get reimbursed for your losses.

Read on before you contact your renters insurance agency to make sure you are as prepared as possible to help your claim get processed quickly and get that check in the mail fast!

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How to file a renters insurance claim

1. Document the damage with pictures and notes

You should have all of your things inventoried with your renters insurance company already as proof of what you own. Document all the items that were damaged and be ready with your inventory list of your stuff as proof of ownership. Pictures, receipts, etc are all great things to have ready in case of damage or theft.

2. File a police report

If this was a theft or some other crime you’ll want to file a police report and have an incident number for your insurance company’s documentation.

3. Notify your landlord immediately

Generally any damage to your stuff that took place in your apartment would have caused damage to the apartment as well. Your landlord needs to know about this to begin repairs if needed.

They’ll also want to notify other tenants if there was a theft. You probably don’t need to tell them about a theft of your stuff that happened off-site of the property.

4. Contact your renters insurance company immediately

Most policies require you to call within 48 to 72 hours of the event so don’t wait!

5. Submit all paperwork and documentation immediately

Your insurance adjuster is going to ask you to fill stuff out and submit pictures or other documentation. Make it a priority to be as responsive to these requests as possible. The more cooperative you are the smoother the process will be.

Roost Tip! Call your renters insurance company within 48 hours of the event. Have your policy number, detailed notes, receipts (if applicable), and photos ready to send.   

What good documentation looks like for a renters insurance claim

Document your stuff before you need to file a claim

The best documentation for a renters insurance claim starts before you ever need to file a claim. Create an inventory list of all of your personal property with as much backup documentation such as pictures and receipts as you can.

Spreadsheets are a great way to do this, include information such as:

  • Item description
  • Brand name
  • Purchase price
  • Link to a photo
  • Year you purchased it
  • Receipt or credit card statement showing the purchase
Roost Tip! For very expensive items like jewelry or a rare piece of art work, you should make sure your renters insurance company knows you own it. They may require you to purchase a little extra insurance to cover it. If you own something expensive that you aren’t sure is covered it’s a good idea to ask your renters insurance company.  

Documentation for filing a renters insurance claim

If damage happened to your stuff you’ll want to document in every way you can. Take pictures, videos, eye witness statements of what happened anything and everything relevant to the incident will help your case.

If your property was stolen you’ll want to document exactly what, where, and when and take pictures or video of any damage done to your apartment or car by the thief.

Roost Tip! Don’t start cleaning up or throwing away anything! Your landlord or a claims adjuster may want to document what happened in person and you want them to see everything just as you found it.  

If you have to file a liability claim involving a person being hurt in your apartment make sure you take really good notes about everything that took place, how it happened, where it happened, any witnesses, photos, videos, etc. Good documentation is especially critical in this type of case because it could end up in court (bleh!)

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Why was my renters insurance claim denied? 

Most insurance claims are processed and settled without much fuss. But some situations could slow down your claim or result in it being denied. 

1. You’re late or behind on your renters insurance premium payment

This is a bill you want to avoid missing or paying late. If you’re behind when something happens, most insurance companies will deny coverage. While a few companies might let you file a claim if you pay off your bill balance, don’t take the chance.

You may want to sign yourself up for autopay. It’ll prevent you from missing payments and, as a bonus, a lot of companies offer a discount if you sign up for autopay.

2. Damages are less than your deductible

Technically speaking, in this situation your claim may not have been denied but it may feel like it! Grumble grumble. Whatever benefits would have been paid have to be paid against your yearly deductible, so if it was less than that amount you won’t receive a check.

For example, if your deductible is $500 and you have $2,500 of damage, then you pay the first $500 and your insurance company would be on the hook for the other $2,000. If you have a high deductible and only a small amount of valuables, the math may not work in your favor.

3. Your claim includes uncovered disasters and losses 

Most insurance policies don’t cover certain disasters, like floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes, known in the insurance business as “Acts of God.”

Some states like Florida do require hurricane coverage to be offered as a part of the renters insurance package. You can also buy what are called riders. This is additional coverage if you live in disaster prone areas.

4. Damages were intentional

If the damage or loss wasn’t accidental or unintentional, it won’t be covered. Makes sense. So, if you decide to do a little remodeling of your place without your landlords’ knowledge and it goes wrong, well, that’s not the kind of thing that’s covered by your renters insurance.

5. It happened to your roommate

If your roommate isn’t your legal partner or spouse, they’ll need their own policy. This is a pretty important matter to discuss with your roommate as soon as they sign your lease. Many roommates put this sort of thing in their roommate agreement, so they have it in writing that each roommie will get their own policy and be covered separately, if anything unfortunate happens.

6. Business losses

If you run your business out of your home, your office equipment may not be covered. There’s a whole separate matter of business insurance, which is a separate thing from renters insurance. Think of renters insurance as covering your personal affairs only.

“Renters should be aware that only the policyholder will be covered for their losses,” he says. “That’s why it’s important for every person living in a shared space to have their own renters insurance policy. If you have a roommate and only you have a policy, he/she won’t get anything back. It’s also a good idea to have an existing inventory of your things, in case a disaster renders everything unrecognizable. Take photographs of the damage, which will help you get your claim paid.” — Lev Barinskly, CEO of SmartFinancial Insurance.

7. Your landlord is responsible 

Let’s say your landlord never repaired the wiring in your apartment as you requested, and it started a fire. Your insurance company probably won’t cover you. They’ll say your landlord is liable. 

If your claim is denied for some reason other than what’s listed above, call your provider. Ask as many questions as you can and have a copy of your policy ready. Most insurance companies will respond quickly and well (check out our best renter’s insurance recommendations) but if you don’t get the response that you feel is fair, you may need to get a little legal help.

The three most common renters insurance claims 

Some companies like Jetty have options that help cover more unique circumstances (bedbugs, spilling coffee on your computer, etc.) but the foundation of most insurance policies is based on the following types of claims:

Property loss insurance claim

This is the most common renters claim, and it’s intended to help replace belongings that have been stolen from your apartment or outside your home (like from your car). There are some specific steps and documentation you’ll need to follow as soon as you realize your stuff has been stolen.

Liability insurance claim

If someone is injured in your home, you’ll make a liability claim. (If you did not have this type of coverage, you could be directly responsible for any costs the injured person incurred, or they could try to sue you. Gulp.) Make sure and write down what happened, how they were injured, and who witnessed it.

After you contact your renters insurance company, you’ll get a call from an adjuster. Their goal will be to investigate and settle the claim directly with whoever got hurt. If the claim doesn’t get settled, it’ll go to court and your insurance company will pay for the fees and final settlement.

Property damage insurance claim

If your belongings get destroyed by fire or water damage, you’ll file a property damage claim. Take careful notes and pictures of what was damaged. An adjuster will pay you a visit to come to assess the damage. 

Filing your renters insurance claim is a snap

Hopefully, you won’t need to file a renters insurance claim (that would mean something bad happened to you!), but if you do, good documentation saves the day almost every time.

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A quick note! Our goal is to gather and share info that’s up-to-date and helps you make great decisions as a renter. That said, the information you get directly from a provider could be a little different. Make sure to review their terms and conditions directly; and, if you see anything here that needs to be updated, please let us know! Advertising disclosure
Last Updated: April 18th, 2023