Disaster Safety for Renters:

What You Need to Know to Keep Your Family and Your Belongings Safe

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy - a late-season post-tropical cyclone - hit the East Coast, destroying or damaging 305,000 housing units in New York City, a metropolitan area with double the national average of home renters. The unexpected and unprecedented hurricane served as a reminder to all Americans of the unpredictability of natural disasters. It also brought to light the reality that renters are too often a vulnerable population relative to disaster response and preventive protections.

Still, every year, millions of Americans choose to rent rather than buy homes. While renting offers a more flexible option for home ownership, and one that requires less of an initial capital investment, renting a home or apartment does not come without its risks. Regardless if you are renting or buying, the place you call home could fall victim to a variety of devastating natural disasters. As a result, you could be facing lost or damaged property, not to mention, the need to quickly relocate.

While we can never fully predict the appearance and potential damage of a natural disaster, there are ways that renters can mitigate the risks and consequences of the unknown. This guide offers an overview of the most common types of natural disasters that put renters at risk each year, as well as tips and best practices for staying safe, protecting your belongings, and identifying warning signs of previous damage. This guide also provides guidance for choosing a comprehensive renters’ insurance policy, and advice for how to break your lease, if you’ve sustained serious damage.

Whether you are a first-time renter, or are looking for advice to ensure you’re doing everything you can to keep your family and your belongings safe, this guide will provide the assurance you need to minimize your risk of damage and loss—no matter what the unexpected brings.

(Skip ahead to a particular section of interest:)

-       Natural disasters impacting renters

o  Earthquakes

o  Hurricanes and tsunamis

o  Tornados

o  Floods

o  Wildfires, Lightning, and Volcanos

o  Landslides and sinkholes

o  Blizzards and hail

-       Options for tenants who want to break their lease

-       Renter’s insurance – what to look for

The Renting Landscape in America

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), 35 percent of the total U.S. population are renters, and the population is growing. According to the Rental Protection Agency, there are more than 2,600 new renters in the U.S. every day. Individuals and families choose to rent for a variety of reasons. As a renter, you typically benefit from:

  • A shorter time commitment and greater flexibility if you anticipate life changes in the short-term.
  • The ability to obtain comfortable housing without the need to make a large down payment, or incur mortgage debt.
  • The personal and financial freedom of not being primarily responsible for property maintenance.
  • Not paying for homeowner expenses such as property taxes, trash pickup, water and sewer service, homeowners’ insurance, pest control, etc.

On the other hand, renting has its limitations and its restrictions. If you choose to rent:

  • You may be limited in changes or personal touches you can make inside and outside of the home, even if safety or accommodations are required
  • You don’t earn equity in the property.
  • You may be limited or restricted in the pets you can have in the home.

Click here for more on the pros and cons of renting vs. buying.

The Risks of Renting

One risk that renters and home owners share, is their vulnerability to natural disasters. Devastating hurricanes, earthshattering landslides, and freezing blizzards strike renters and homeowners alike, which means whether you rent or buy, you need to be aware of the risks in your area, and how to stay safe. Understanding the warning signs of home damage and preventative best practices will allow you to better safeguard your home and your family—no matter what risks you face.


Natural Disasters Impacting Renters

Depending on where you live, you may be at risk for any of the following types of natural disasters. These devastating, and unpredictable events come without warning and can bring unparalleled destruction.


While minor earthquakes happen across the world daily, when a quake with a large magnitude occurs, it can decimate cities, destroy homes, and end lives. 

Possible Damage

Even though most earthquakes only last 10 to 30 seconds, they can cause irreparable damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that earthquake losses in the U.S. add up to about $4.4 billion dollars annually. This could include structural damage, collapse or partial collapse, damage to structures from falling trees or telephone poles, and fires that occur as a direct result from earthquakes damaging electrical or natural gas lines.

 Signs of Existing Damage

Damage to a property from a previous earthquake can be difficult to spot, as it could look like normal wear and tear. Before you agree to a lease, complete the following safety checks that could be signs of earthquake damage resulting in a structurally unsound home or building:

  • Walk around the exterior of the structure looking for signs that it has shifted off its foundation.
  • Look for damage or serious cracks to the main structure of the home, including ceilings, light fixtures, and the roof.
  • Check for fissures in the earth, or signs that nearby structures, such as fences, have shifted.
  • Look for large cracks in the foundation, basement, chimney mortar, or any walls. Cracks in the walls that appear in a stair step pattern are clear indications of past earthquake damage. Radiating cracks around doors and windows are another telltale sign of earthquake damage.
  • As you walk around the home, note if you feel soft spots in the floor.
  • Open and close all windows and doors. None should be jammed, blocked, or difficult to move.

Questions to Ask Prospective Landlords

What follows are questions you should ask any prospective landlords if you are considering renting a property that may have suffered earthquake damage, or that may be at risk in the future.

  • Has an earthquake every impacted this property?
  • When was the structure built? When was the last time the roof was replaced?
  • For older properties, has the main structure been properly reinforced? If the answer is yes, ask for details on how.
  • Are we allowed to drill holes in the wall to secure bookcases and other furniture from falling over in case of a future earthquake?
  • If an earthquake occurs, will I be expected to pay rent during any period of time in which the property is uninhabitable (the answer should be no)?

Protecting Yourself from Earthquake Damage

  • Know the risks that you face for earthquakes, based on where you live. While earthquakes can occur in all 50 U.S. states, and during any season, there are some cities and states that are more at risk based on their proximity to active fault lines. The states in the U.S. that annually record the greatest number of earthquakes include Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and Oregon. For more information on the risks of earthquakes in your area, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) offers online resources to search for daily earthquake occurrences, and subscribe to real-time notifications.
  • Review your renters’ insurance policy. A basic policy may or may not include coverage for belongings damaged by an earthquake. If you live in a high-risk area, consider purchasing additional earthquake insurance.

For more information on protecting your rented home from earthquake damage, click here for tips from FEMA.

Hurricanes and Tsunamis

Coastal communities all along the Atlantic and Pacific shore offer enticing benefits for renters, including easy access to the beach and idyllic vistas. Unfortunately, they are also at risk of damage from hurricanes and even tsunamis, which particularly threaten parts of the Pacific coast, Hawaii, and Alaska. If you’re prepared to battle annual hurricane season, which occurs from June 1 through November 30 for Atlantic coast communities, know the risks and how to protect your family and your belongings from these destructive storms.

Possible Damage

The biggest cause of hurricane-related damage is storm surge; however, hurricane winds that can range from 74 to 155 mph, and heavy rains are perhaps the most dangerous and destructive part of a hurricane. Hurricanes can also cause tree limbs to break, causing damage to nearby structures, and can even trigger dangerous tornados.

Signs of Existing Damage

Previous damage to an apartment caused by a hurricanes or tsunami may not be obvious. Some of the biggest risks to structures that have sustained hurricane winds and rains is roof damage and basement flooding.

  • Inspect the roof and look for signs that asphalt shingles have blown off completely. For other types of roofs, look to see if shingles are cracked, torn, or missing.
  • Check the roof for structural damage that may have been caused by a tree or other falling hazard. You may also observe dented vents, gutters, or flashing.
  • While inside the house, check to see if the roof is leaking.
  • Look for mold or mildew in the attic.
  • Look for corrosion to electric wiring caused by exposure to salt water.
  • Check for cracked or damage window frames. Remember, previously damaged glass may have been replaced, so look for structural damage.

Questions to Ask Prospective Landlords

Verify that the rental property is safe by asking the landlord the following:

  • Is this property located in a flood zone?
  • Has this property ever sustained hurricane or tsunami damage? If so, to what extent?
  • Does it include storm windows? (If not, can they be installed?)
  • Was the structure ever flooded? If so, how much water came in and how long was it sitting inside?
  • Were the walls replaced or simply washed and painted? When were these changes made?
  • Was the wiring checked for corrosion? If so, when? If not, when can they be?
  • Was the roof checked for rot? If there was roof damage, how was it repaired, or replaced?
  • If a hurricane or tsunami occurs, will I be expected to pay rent during any period of time in which the property is uninhabitable (the answer should be no)?


Protecting Yourself from Hurricane and Tsunami Damage

If you’re renting a home in a hurricane or tsunami zone, talk to your landlord about completing the following safety measures when a storm is imminent.

  • Bracing the garage door, typically the most vulnerable part of a property.
  • Securing windows and doors with storm shutters or boards.
  • Protecting the roof with hurricane straps.
  • Trimming and removing dead sections of trees and tree limbs.

Finally, make sure you’re protected with hurricane insurance. Your landlord’s insurance will likely cover the house or building, but not your belongings, which could be damaged during a storm. If you’re renting in a known hurricane or tsunami zone, make sure your policy is comprehensive.

For additional hurricane preparedness tips, visit the National Hurricane Center (NHC), or for tsunami preparedness tips, visit the Red Cross.



Tornados are nature’s most destructive storms. They have the power to level homes and eradicate entire neighborhoods in seconds with winds that can reach 300 mph. Approximately 1,200 tornados touch down in the U.S. annually, and are most likely to hit during the months of March and June.

Just like with earthquakes, Tornados can strike anywhere, anytime, but they are most prevalent in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Nebraska, Illinois, Colorado, Iowa, Alabama, Missouri, and Mississippi. Stay safe in your rental property by understanding the risks of tornadoes, how to identify past damage, and how to stay safe.

Possible Damage

Depending on the speed of the twister, tornados can overturn mobile homes, rip the roofs off of houses, and uproot trees sending them crashing into nearby structures. The most devastating tornadoes are powerful enough to rip homes off their foundation and send them soaring or level them completely, leaving only debris behind.

Signs of Existing Damage

For homes that sustained tornado damage, inspect the roof and exterior of the structure carefully for signs of prior damage. Look for:

  • Split seams and torn or missing shingles, which can result in water damage, mold formation, and wood rot—damage that could end in a roof collapse.
  • Cracked or damaged windows, or window casings.
  • Dented gutters and flashings.

Questions to Ask Prospective Landlords

Before agreeing to rental terms with a landlord be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Is this property in a high-risk area for tornadoes?
  • Does this property offer a secure storm shelter or include a basement?
  • What reinforcements have been made to the garage?
  • Does it include storm windows?
  • Does the property have permanent storm shutters installed?
  • If a tornado occurs, will I be expected to pay rent during any period of time in which the property is uninhabitable (the answer should be no)?

Protecting Yourself from Tornado Damage

Follow these best practices to minimize your losses in the event a tornado touches down where you are renting:

  • Trim dead tree branches most at risk of breaking in the event of high winds.
  • Remove loose items, such as patio furniture, from your yard that could be thrown by powerful winds.
  • Ask your landlord about installing storm shutters, and bracing the garage.
  • Since most renters' insurance policies do not cover tornado damage, consider purchasing a separate policy or rider if you know you’re in an at-risk area.

For more information on tornado preparedness, visit Ready.gov or the Red Cross.



Flash flooding is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. According to the National Weather Service, in 2016, there were 126 fatalities in the U.S. caused by floods, seconded only to heat. Flooding could be caused by hurricanes or tsunamis, or it could be the result of days of heavy rain. Some states are more at risk of flooding, especially flatter areas and coastal communities. The states most susceptible to potentially devastating floods include Florida, Louisiana, California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Georgia. For more information on flood safety, and the risks in your area, visit floodsafety.com.


Possible Damage

According to FEMA, 90 percent of all annual disaster-related property damage is caused by flooding. Over the past decade, the average flood claim in the U.S. has exceeded $46,000 with an average annual total of $3.5 billion. No matter where you are renting, be aware that flooding can cause structural damage to the walls or foundation of homes and apartments, as well as to water, gas, electric, and sewer lines.  

Signs of Existing Damage

Check the interior and exterior of the property for signs that the structure was once flooded, including:

  • Warped walls.
  • Loose or cracked foundation.
  • Cracks or holes in the walls or floor.
  • Damage to power, gas, or water lines.
  • Mold in the ceiling and/or the basement.

Questions to Ask Prospective Landlords

  • Has this property ever flooded? If so, what was the cause? How was the water removed?
  • What structural damage, if any, did the flood cause and how was it repaired?
  • Was the property treated for mold damage after the flood?
  • If a severe flood occurs, will I be expected to pay rent during any period of time in which the property is uninhabitable (the answer should be no)?

Protecting Yourself from Flood Damage

To prepare yourself and your family, and mitigate the chances of damage to your personal property, follow these steps to protect your rental property from the chance of flooding.

  • Ask your landlord if the property has flood reinforcement materials available and on hand, such as bricks, plaster, cement, sand, plastic bags, etc.
  • If a flood is in progress, turn off the electricity, gas, and central heating.
  • Consider a separate flood insurance policy. Most renters’ insurance policies will cover water damage caused by a leak, but in the cases of floods caused by natural disasters, only a separate flood policy will cover you.


Wildfires, Lightning, and Volcanos

Four out of five wildfires are sparked by people, though they can also be triggered by bolts of lightning or volcanoes. Regardless of their cause, wildfires can rage for days, spreading at a rate of up to 14 mph, devastating wildlife and natural resources, and destroying homes. Nearly 900,000 homes across 13 states in the western U.S. are at high risk for wildfires, including Texas, California, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, and Washington. The East Coast is also at risk, including parts of North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. If you’re in an area at risk of wildfires, know how to protect yourself, and what to look for in an ideal rental.


Possible Damage

Wildfires can destroy homes, leaving them in ashes, though significant damage can also be done by smoke from a nearby blaze. It’s important to note that fires can ignite when burning debris lands on a roof with flammable shingles. Untreated red cedar shake shingles are particularly susceptible to catching fire.

Signs of Existing Damage

Homes that have been exposed to a fire are at risk of damage from smoke and mold—two toxins that could have deadly consequences if left untreated. To identify signs of damage:

  • Pay attention to the smell. If you detect a pungent odor, especially if the air in the property is giving you itchy eyes and a runny nose, there could be mold festering.
  • Search for visible signs of mold, which often appears as black spots, a green furry substance, or white threads on walls, in corners, on the ceiling, in the basement and attic, etc.
  • Look for signs of rust or corrosion on metal and appliances, which indicates previous exposure to smoke.
  • Look for gray or black stains on walls, ceilings, and plaster surfaces, all signs of smoke damage.

Note that if a house was the victim of a fire it may also have suffered water damage. Review the previous section about flooding to familiarize yourself with signs of water damage.

Questions to Ask Prospective Landlords

If you suspect a home may have been exposed to a wildfire, volcano, or lightning strike, ask the following questions:

  • Is this property in an area known to be at risk of wildfires, volcanoes, or lightning?
  • Has the property ever sustained fire damage? If so, how was the property cleaned, repaired, and ventilated?
  • What material is the roof made from?
  • Will the landscaping be regularly maintained to ensure overgrowth is not approaching the property and putting it at risk of fire?
  • Is there a water source near the property, such as a pond or swimming pool?
  • Does the property have freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides?
  • If a wildfire occurs, will I be expected to pay rent during any period of time in which the property is uninhabitable (the answer should be no)?

Protecting Yourself from Flood Damage

There are steps you can take to mitigate the chances of a wildfire starting, or spreading to your rental property.

  • Talk to your landlord to ensure the gutters and roof are regularly cleaned and kept free of debris.
  • Keep an area of at least 30 feet free of easily flammable debris, such as wood piles, dry leaves, and brush.
  • Ensure you have a garden hose connected at all times during non-winter months.
  • Make sure you have easy access to safety tools such as a rake, ax, bucket, and shovel.
  • Make sure you have renters’ insurance. Most rental policies cover damage caused by wildfire, smoke, or damage from the water used to control the blaze.

For more information on wildfire safety, visit Ready.gov or the Red Cross.


Landslides and Sinkholes

Overtime, gravity, wind, rain, freezing snowstorms and flooding rainstorms weaken the earth’s surface, setting up a potential risk of collapse. Landslides and sinkholes can swallow properties in mere seconds. Each year, hundreds of thousands of lives are lost, and billions of dollars of property damage is incurred by these devastating and unpredictable natural disasters.

During a landslide, a slope of earth gives way, pulling land, rock, earth, soil, and mud downhill. Areas in the U.S. at greatest risk of landslides include the Appalachians, areas in the Rocky Mountains, and mountain ranges near the Pacific Coast. Sinkholes are even more unpredictable, and are created in areas where the earth has no natural external surface drainage. Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania are most susceptible to sinkholes. Protect your family and your belongings by knowing the risks and signs of landslides and sinkholes in your area.

Possible Damage

The damage that can be done by landslides and sinkholes is immeasurable. They can consume or carry away entire homes in seconds, leaving nothing behind, or cause a full or partial collapse of a home, garage, shed, or even a driveway. If a landslide is about to occur, you may notice the following signs:

  • Springs, seeps, or saturated ground in unexpected places.
  • New or developing cracks, or unusual bulges in the ground or paved areas.
  • An indication that soil is moving away from the foundation of the house.
  • Tilting or shifting of property structures such as sheds or decks.
  • Cracking or tilting in the foundation of the property.
  • Broken water lines and other underground utilities.
  • Tilting telephone poles, trees, fences, or retaining walls.
  • Sticking windows and doors, or visible signs that frames are not vertically straight.

Signs of Existing Damage

The greater threat to your apartment may not be that a sinkhole or landslide previously occurred. It may be that one is imminent but yet undetected. Walk around the property and look for any signs of unusual holes, subsidence, or depressions. Know that an area where a landslide or sinkhole has already occurred could be the site of a future collapse, even if the surface area has been repaired.


Click here for more information on the signs of a pending landslide from USGS, or review this fact sheet from FEMA.

Questions to Ask Prospective Landlords

Aside from natural causes, sinkholes may occur if properties are built over unstable foundations. Ask the landlord the following questions to before you sign a lease:

  • Is this property in a known landslide or sinkhole region?
  • Has this property, or any nearby, ever been damaged by a sinkhole or landslide? If so, were water or utility lines damaged? How were they repaired?
  • Has this property ever had a leaking sewer line?
  • Is this property at risk of a collapse due to any of the following?
  • A cesspool.
  • A dug well.
  • Soil subsidence over buried trees or stumps.
  • Abandoned drywells or septic tanks.
  • A buried swimming pool or garbage dump.
  • Abandoned buried building foundations.
  • Ravines from previous earthquakes.
  • If a landslide or sinkhole occurs, will I be expected to pay rent during any period of time in which the property is uninhabitable (the answer should be no)?

Protecting Yourself from Landside and Sinkhole Damage

There are steps you can take to minimize the changes of a landslide occurring at your rental property:

  • Do not over water your lawn on sloped areas.
  • Make sure sewer line are not leaking.
  • Do not dig out or remove earth from the base of a slope.
  • Make sure runoff from the road, your driveway, and gutters runs downhill and into drains or drainageways.
  • Most renters’ insurance policies will not cover earth movements such as landslides and sinkholes, so if you are renting in an area of risk, consider adopting a second policy specific to sinkholes to insure your belongings.


Blizzards and Hail

Blizzards are winter storms that can cause severe damage throughout entire regions. Blizzards are categorized by large amounts of falling, or blowing, snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and a visibility of less than one-quarter mile for a period greater than three hours. Blizzards occur most commonly in the Great Plains, the Northeast, and on top of mountains, however a blizzard can occur anywhere that regularly receives snowfall. Everyone living in a cold winter weather climate should protect themselves from the threat of severe winter weather. Start by knowing the risks and how to protect your belongings.


Possible Damage

Blizzards pose serious risks to properties, especially the risk of roof damage or collapse and subsequent water damage, as pounds of snow accumulate over hours or even days. The strong winds caused by blizzards also pose a risk of falling trees or branches, or powerlines that can cause serious damage to properties. The pelting of blowing hail and ice can be just as devastating, as it can damage windows, skylights, roof shingles and siding.

In addition, blizzards and heavy snow can cause a backup in gutters, which can lead to interior water damage. Blizzards that come on quickly, or that are exceptionally cold, can also result in freezing, and possibly bursting pipes. If a pipe burst occurs, the longer it goes unnoticed, the more flood water damage could be sustained in the property.

Signs of Existing Damage

Inspect the inside and the outside of the property and look for:

  • Signs that the roof has been damaged by hail, such as dents in metal roofs or roof caps.
  • For asphalt roofs, look for cracked shingles, or areas where the granules on the shingles are missing.
  • Signs of flooding (refer to the previous section about flood damage).
  • Cracks in the foundation that may be a sign of previous severe freezing and thawing.

Questions to Ask Prospective Landlords

If you will be renting in a cold weather climate, and one that may be at risk for high winter winds and blizzards, ask any potential landlords the following questions:

  • Has this property been previously damaged by a blizzard or hail? If so, what damage was sustained and how was it repaired?
  • Have the pipes in the property ever frozen or burst?
  • Is the roof up to code? How long ago were the shingles installed?
  • If a blizzard or severe hailstorm occurs, will I be expected to pay rent during any period of time in which the property is uninhabitable (the answer should be no)?

Protecting Yourself from Blizzard and Hail Damage

If a high impact snow storm is anticipated, consider safely salting the roof and gutters. Also, discuss the following protections with your landlord:

  • Installing wind-resistant glass windows.
  • Keeping gutters free of ice blockages.
  • Ensuring vents and furnaces remain clear and not buried under snow.

Also, ensure you have renters’ insurance. Most policies will cover damage to your belongings caused by hail. While most renters’ insurance policies do not cover natural disaster floods, they do typically cover damage caused by bursting pipes.

For more safety tips for surviving winter storms, visit the Red Cross or the National Weather Service.


Options for Tenants Who Want to Break Their Lease

A natural disaster and its consequences can change your life. After surviving an earthquake, tsunami, or landslide, it may alter your short- and long-term plans, and result in the need for you to break your lease and move on to another property, or town altogether. Renters do have options for breaking their lease. Especially if the reasons for wanting to separate from the property are related to a natural disaster, most landlords will be willing to work with you on an amicable separation. Your options will depend on the terms of your specific contract. What follows are general options that apply to most rental situations.

Find a New Renter

If the property has been repaired, or is still inhabitable, but you’re looking for a fresh start in a new location, your best option will be to find a new renter to whom you can transition your lease. In many states, rental agreements will typically stipulate that landlords and tenants are required to attempt to find a replacement if a tenant moves out early. Depending on your lease, and how early in the contract you are attempting to walk away, you may be able to engage in a roommate release, sublet your apartment, or re-rent the property.

If you decide to pursue this option, know that you still may have some financial liability for a period of time. In many states, during the time you are looking for a new tenant, you’ll still be liable for paying rent, even if you’re no longer living in the property—a scenario that could go on for months. If you or your landlord find a new renter, but your landlord isn’t able to charge the new tenant as much as he/she was charging you, you may be liable to pay the difference until your original lease period has ended. If this occurs, your landlord may be willing to allow you to pay off the lease balance overtime in installments.

Make a Termination Offer

Your lease agreement should include a termination offer. Typically, if tenants break their lease they are required to pay two or three months of rent and forfeit their security deposit. Depending on your needs, your timeline to relocate, and your financial situation, making a termination offer may be the most expeditious option. Click here for tips and an example for how to write a lease termination letter to your landlord.


Check for Breach of Contract

Landlords are responsible for maintaining a safe property. If significant weather-related damage occurred to the property or your belongings that could have been avoided had the landlord completed necessary maintenance items, you may have grounds to pursue breaking your lease under the terms of a landlord breach of contract. If you decide to pursue this option, be prepared to prove that you made requests for items to be fixed, such as mold from a previous flood, and that requested actions were not taken.

Consider if Special Circumstances Apply

Depending on the laws of your state, the terms of your lease, and the circumstances involved, you may be able to break your lease agreement without incurring additional financial responsibility if it’s determined that special circumstances apply. In some cases, such circumstances include situations where the apartment is unlivable. If your apartment has been severely damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster, you have grounds to break your lease.

For more information, or for help breaking your lease, consider seeking assistance from your city’s tenant union, if one is available.

For more information on the landlord-tenant laws in your state, click here or visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


What Should You Look for in Renters’ Insurance?

If you’re going to be renting a home or apartment, don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need renters’ insurance. Your landlord’s insurance policy will likely cover the property, but it won’t cover your belongings, which is why every tenant should have at least a basic rental policy. Renters’ insurance is typically more affordable than you may think, as the average policy is less than $200 per year.

When searching for renters’ insurance and comparing policies, consider the following:

  • Choose an HO-4 Policy – This comprehensive policy type covers damage from 16 different types of perils, including fire or lightning, a windstorm or hail, smoke, volcanic eruption, the weight of ice or snow overflow of water from plumbing or certain appliances, or frozen pipes.
  • The Deductible – You’ll want to choose an insurance policy with a deductible that offers you the greatest coverage for your assets, at the most affordable monthly price. Your insurance agent should help you determine if you’d be better suited with a higher deductible and lower monthly payments, or paying more each month, but then less up front if you do have to make a claim against your policy.
  • Additional Living Expenses – If your apartment becomes unlivable for a period of time, such as after a natural disaster, and you’re forced to temporarily relocate, you’ll want to ensure your renters’ policy covers your additional living expenses.
  • Coverage Terms – Most insurers will give you options for choosing how you want your belongings to be covered, either based on their actual cash value (ACV), or their replacement value. Click here for more information on the benefits of each.
  • Coverage Dollar Limits – Most policies will specify dollar limits covered on specific items, such as cash, jewelry, or silverware. Talk to your insurance agent so that he or she can help you choose a policy that offers the greatest levels of protections based on your assets. You may be able to add a rider for additional coverage on high value items. Be sure to note what you need to do or provide in order to document your assets.
  • Liability Protection – Most renters’ insurance policies will include liability protection for property-damage and bodily-injury lawsuits. Be sure your policy includes such terms, as it protects you from financial liability should someone accidentally injure themselves while at the rental property.

Depending on where you will be renting, you may want to consider an additional policy for earthquakes, floods, or other natural disasters that are typically not covered by a basic renters’ insurance policy.

Click here for more information on renters’ insurance policies and to help you get started finding the policy that’s best for you.


We can never fully predict devastation from an unexpected natural disaster, but it is possible to be prepared, and protected in case the unexpected occurs. Not only will asking the right questions up front, and protecting your assets offer peace of mind, it will put you in the best position to move forward and recover from a devastating life event.