By Caroline Odom
Before tenants can move into a property leased by CollegeTown Properties, a real estate firm in Athens, Georgia, they must purchase a renters insurance policy.
“About a month before move-in day, we start reaching out to all of our tenants to make sure they have proof of it,” said Katherine Rittenhouse, CollegeTown’s marketing and leasing manager.
Before CollegeTown required proof of a policy, tenants typically did not purchase renters insurance, Rittenhouse said. But CollegeTown now outlines this requirement in the lease.
The likelihood of property loss may seem minimal, but the severity can be significant. Although a landlord’s insurance policy will cover unexpected and accidental damages to the property and premises, the personal possessions of tenants are not covered by landlords.
“If there was a fire, or if a pipe burst in the dorm or the apartment, or if a storm came through like a tornado that destroyed all their belongings, they would have nothing for it if they didn’t have tenant homeowners [insurance],” said Wendy Jordan of Chastain & Associates Insurance, an independent insurance agency in Athens, Georgia.
Not all property managers require renters insurance, but purchasing a policy will protect tenants from potential property loss.
These policies are very easy to obtain, Jordan said, but what should student tenants consider before purchasing a renters insurance policy?
A typical renters insurance policy covers loss or damages to items resulting from fire, theft, vandalism and plumbing or electrical malfunctions. Some policies also include hail, explosion, riots, damages caused by vehicles, vandalism and volcanoes.
Potential policyholders should also consider excluded causes of loss. For example, flood, which is defined as outside waters coming in, is not covered, Jordan said.
Additionally, these policies include general liability, Jordan said. If someone is hurt or injured in your leased space, the policy covers legal expenses and court judgements if the injured party decides to take legal action against you.
If one of the covered causes of loss occurs, the insurance policy will provide only up to the amount of coverage defined in the policy. A typical renters insurance policy for students covers up to $20,000, Jordan said.
When considering cost, tenants should consider a policy’s deductible and premium. Premium defines how much a policyholder pays for the policy. For a student’s renters insurance policy, the annual premium is typically $150, Jordan said.
Although it depends on the insurance provider, the premium can be paid monthly, quarterly or annually, Jordan said. Potential policyholders should pay attention to any potential discounts offered by different payment schedules.
In the event of loss, deductible defines the amount a policyholder pays out of pocket before insurance coverage applies. A typical deductible for renters insurance is $500, Jordan said. Increasing the deductible can result in a lower premium, and decreasing the deductible will increase the premium.
Obtaining a policy
To purchase a policy, students can contact an insurance agency and purchase a standalone policy.
A second option would qualify if a student’s parents own a home, then students may be able to add coverage through an extension on their parents’ existing homeowners’ policy. This is the only way that Chastain & Associates sells renters insurance policies, Jordan said.
“All they do is call their agent,” Jordan said. “In August when kids are going off to college, we get calls every day.”
Once tenants purchase a policy, Jordan recommends that they maintain an inventory of their personal possessions with photos or a video.
“Then, if there’s a loss, it’s very easy to prove the items that you had,” Jordan said. “The more information you can provide, the easier and smoother the claim will go.”
Caroline Odom is studying journalism at the University of Georgia. She is a 2020 Cox-SABEW Fellow, a training program in partnership with UGA’s Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership.