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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
A friend got injured at your place. Someone broke in and took your phone, television, and bike. These aren’t pleasant things to think about, but if you have renters insurance, don’t worry — you’re probably covered. Your next step is to file a renters insurance claim, and understanding how this process works will help your claim get processed more quickly. Before you contact your agency, make sure you’ve read up on the types of insurance claims, what good documentation looks like and what to do if your claim is denied.
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: 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. (Read on!)
- Liability 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: 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.
How to file a renters insurance claim
- Notify your landlord or property manager immediately. In most states, this is mandatory. Your landlord may need to make immediate repairs or in the case of stolen property, alert your neighbors to the risk of theft.
- Call the police department (unless you think there’s still a burglar on the property, call their non-urgent line) and obtain a copy of the police report.
- Take notes of the damage and pictures. Don’t go inside if you’re concerned about your safety. Wait till the police or fire department arrives.
- Contact your renters insurance company immediately to see if your claim is covered. Most policies require you call within 48 to 72 hours of the event.
- Fill out any paperwork your insurer sends you right away.
- Wait for the adjuster to contact you.
What good documentation looks like
When you fill out your claims form, you’ll need to include your documentation. In the case of theft, it’s usually the small, valuable items that get stolen — phones, laptops, cameras, wallets, purses, jewelry, etc. Write down any details you have about these items. Better yet, enter the info into a spreadsheet and include a description, name of the brand, when you purchased it, and replacement value. If you have receipts, great, but that’s not necessarily required on smaller cost items. (Your renters insurance company has a pretty good idea of how much things cost.)
If you have an unusually expensive item, however, like a special ring or watch, you’ll want to try to find a receipt, credit card statement, and a picture of you wearing it. Part of an insurer’s job is to make sure there are no fraudulent insurance claims — which is a felony — so you don’t want to give them any room for doubt.
If your apartment or rental has been directly damaged, make sure to take photos and videos of anything damaged. Also: don’t start cleaning up or throwing away anything. While the urge to get your home back in shape makes sense, the claims adjuster will want to see the space untouched. If a visit or call from a claims adjuster isn’t necessary, your insurance company will let you know.
Why does all this matter? Your goal is to get your belongings replaced or home repaired as quickly as possible. The more documentation you have and the more quickly you call your insurance company helps them process your claim more quickly.
Why might your renters claim be 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 monthly payment
This is a bill you want to avoid missing or paying late. If you’re behind, most policies 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
Oh, that deductible! Every insurance policy has a deductible, which is the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before your insurer starts to help. 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
Your policy won’t cover certain disasters, like floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes, known in the insurance business as “acts of God.” Also, 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.
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.
“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.
6. 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.
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, it’s an easy process, and you’ll likely get approved. At the very least, renters insurance will give you peace of mind if anything bad happens to you.
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