Experts highlight importance of renters insurance before disaster strikes

Though many of us may never experience the impacts of massive flooding.
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 9:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As people in southwest Virginia and parts of Kentucky continue to fight for relief following the devastating flooding, the Red Cross of Virginia wants renters to ensure they have every protection in place before disaster strikes.

Jonathan McNamara with the Red Cross says that even though most people will never have to deal with a significant flood, many more minor disasters happen every day that could be just as devastating to renters.

“In the greater Richmond and Petersburg areas, we respond to about 39 fires a month,” McNamara said.

While McNamara says the Red Cross is always prepared to assist people displaced from a fire, he says the assistance can only go so far.

“We can give you resources for about three days to get a place to stay, replace some of those medications, clothing and purchase some food and other supplies,” McNamara said. “That will never cover the full extent of the damage that can be caused, whether it’s lost items or supplies or all the things that we fill our homes with that renter’s insurance can protect.

Though renters insurance can go a long way in filling those gaps, far too often, McNamara says he deals with clients that simply don’t have it.

“We hear time and from clients after these types of events that they wish they had renters insurance, and many times they didn’t even know they needed it,” McNamara said.

The biggest takeaway for people to realize is that the management company or the people you rent from are not the ones responsible for damage to your property. That responsibility falls on the renter.

Patrick McCloud with the Virginia Apartment Management Association says renters insurance is generally affordable and can cost as little as $15 to $20 a month or even less.

It’s not just belongings that can be covered either. McCloud says some policies can even cover hotel stays or alternative housing for people who’ve been displaced.

Renter’s insurance can usually be found in liability and personal property insurance.

Liability coverage takes care of things if you or someone else is responsible for damages that may have occurred to a home an apartment from an accident. Personal property covers damages to property that happen as a result of you, a neighbor, or perhaps naturally.

McCloud says the most prominent reason he sees people go without renters insurance is that they don’t think a disaster will ever happen to them.

While the Virginia Apartment Management Association doesn’t have data on the number of Virginia renters who go without renters insurance, McCloud says it’s becoming more common for management companies to require tenants to take out a policy.

“Fortunately, over the past ten years, we have seen more management companies require renters insurance, and that informs residents about their options and encourages them to get it,” McCloud said.

But that requirement is not universal. Stipulations under code section 55.1-1206 require that a landlord provide notification if they do not require a tenant to have renters insurance.

For places that don’t require renters insurance, like some public housing, McCloud encourages folks to contact an insurance carrier in order to to be covered.

“We still see people who, even though it’s suggested all the time, still don’t get it, and that’s a big mistake,” McCloud said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that they are one accident away from bankruptcy, and renters insurance can be the difference between people going bankrupt.”

McCloud says that renters insurance does not protect you against flooding. That requires separate flood insurance.

Suppose you are in an area that is prone to flooding. In that case, renters should contact the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program or the Virginia Department of Conservation flood risk information system. They will give you an idea that you live in a flood plane and your options to obtain protection.

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