A few years back, I was relocating to Washington D.C for work, and looking for someone to take over the lease in my sweet downtown apartment in Norfolk. I had barely posted an ad on Craigslist before my phone rang, and a woman on the other end announced that she would not only like to rent my apartment, NOW, but she’d also be interested in purchasing all of my furniture. Now.

She kept on, and told me that the night before her duplex apartment had burned down. She lost everything (Everything? YES, EVERYTHING). “Did you have renter’s insurance,” I asked her? For the first time in five minutes, she was silent. And then, finally, “No."

I was a renter for more than five years before I realized how valuable and necessary renter’s insurance really is. Most renters (me included) choose to pass on renter’s insurance initially, believing that their landlord’s policy will cover their possessions, but that my friends, is no dice. The reality is that without a policy of your own, you risk a lot (and now, commence to counting your laptops, smartphones, designer shoes, “investment” handbags, your grandfather’s watch, mountain bike, etc.). Plain and simple?

Every renter should have renter’s insurance.

No, really. I mean it. EVERY RENTER SHOULD BE COVERED. Most policies are incredibly inexpensive, ranging from roughly $200-$300 a year, or $10-$25 a month, depending on the policy. Renter’s insurance policies cover you if your electronics, books, furniture or other belongings/valuables are damaged or destroyed by fire or theft. Additionally, you’ll be covered if you need to temporarily relocate to a hotel or short-term rental. Also, Renter’s insurance includes liability protection, which will cover medical costs should someone suffer an injury in your apartment (think repairmen or the random guy who shows up to your Halloween party and has a few too many orange crushes). It also protects you should anyone choose to sue you for incurring an injury in your home, covering your legal expenses and court awards, usually up to around $100,000.

Each policy is different, so it’s important to know whether you’d prefer to opt for full replacement cost coverage, or an actual cash value (ACV). Replacement cost coverage will pay you the entire cost of purchasing a new item to replace the damaged/destroyed item. ACV will pay you for the market value price of the item that was destroyed at the time it was destroyed. Replacement cost coverage tends to be more expensive, but considering the potential difference in payout, it may be worth the cost.

When you’re ready to purchase your policy, take an inventory of your possessions. Know Your Stuff has a handy tool to help you do this. You’ll want the policy you purchase to truly reflect your own specific needs, and it’s not a bad idea to seek out an agent you trust to help you sign up. You can work with your car insurance agent, or consider asking friends and family to refer a trusted agent to you who can help be your advocate.

If you need more understanding of how renter’s insurance works, check out the Insurance Information Institute and Renter’s Insurance. And then? Go out and get yourself covered.

Photo courtesy of Newton Pads.