Updated: September 2016
When a washing machine hose burst at my parents' home last winter, their homeowners insurance helped pay for the water damage. I'm a renter, though — would renters insurance cover a similar scenario for me?
A: Most renters policies are "named perils" policies, which simply means that the insurance will cover a sudden and accidental loss from specific causes of loss — things like fire, hail, or lightning, says Mike Short, an Allstate agency owner with offices in Denville, New Jersey and Long Valley, New Jersey.
A renters insurance policy typically names the potential sources of the water damage that the policy covers. For example, a renters insurance policy may help cover the cost of replacing belongings that have been damaged from the sudden and accidental discharge of water from:
- Air conditioners
"If your washing machine suddenly malfunctions and water is all over the apartment, your renters insurance would likely cover the loss of your personal property," Short explains.
Not all types of water loss are covered. Flooding, for instance, is one notable exception, Short says.
"I can't stress the distinction enough — any sort of water damage caused by flood isn't covered by a renters policy. You would need separate flood insurance for that." Renters can purchase a policy to protect their personal property from flood damage through the National Flood Insurance Program.
That said, you should know that you don't need to experience flood to experience a water-related loss. Short says that it's equally important to make sure your landlord also has an insurance policy that covers the home's structure from water damage
Beyond protecting your personal property, a renters policy could also help protect you in the event that a water problem in your apartment causes damage in a neighboring unit.
"So, say there is a water leak in your apartment that leaks down into your neighbor's unit and you are found legally responsible for the damages," Short says. "That's where the liability portion of the renters policy would kick in ... it could help pay to remediate that damage for your neighbor."
If your landlord was somehow liable for the damage, though — like if he was negligent in maintenance — then your insurance company might attempt to recoup the amount it paid out from your landlord.
The best way to help keep your belongings in your rented home safe — and help protect yourself — is by making sure the proper protections are in place.
"Read your lease carefully," Short says, "and make sure you know what you're responsible for, and what your landlord is responsible for in the event of a problem."