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Renters Insurance

Broiling a steak seemed like a good idea at the time until you realized that you hadn't cleaned your stove in a while. The resulting grease fire caused extensive damage to your apartment and everything in it. But at least your landlord has insurance, so you will be fine, right?

Wrong. In most cases, a landlord's policy covers only structural damage, which means your big screen TV, clothing, computer, furniture, and other personal belongings are a total loss. If you would have had renter's insurance, your losses most likely would have been covered.

The Ohio Department of Insurance cautions that moving into a rental situation for any reason, including after a foreclosure, is not the time to forget insurance. Tenants may think that they are saving money by no longer having to pay homeowner's insurance. But by not picking up renter's insurance, they could pay even bigger in the long run.

According to Jarrett Dunbar, public information office for the Ohio Department of Insurance, Ohioans paid an average of $163 a year or $13.58 a month in renter's insurance. Condominium owners paid $236 or $19.67 a month.

"Renter's insurance gives you all of the protection you would have as a homeowner without the obligation of insuring a home," said Charles M. Germana, president of Four Star Insurance Agency in Parma. "A homeowner's policy is also a comprehensive liability policy. That's important because many lease agreements have a waiver of subrogation. That means that if there is a loss, the property owner pays for the building coverage, but the tenant is responsible for their personal belongings, regardless of who is responsible or who is fault."

Germana said a renter's policy covers expected perils, often including fire and smoke damage, but also other unfortunate accidents. Tenants who live on the second floor of a duplex may find themselves being sued if a child leaves a toy on a stairway and someone trips and falls down the steps. A policy also usually protects you if your dog bites someone.

Germana said that if there is no waiver of subrogation, a property manager's insurance company can try to collect from a tenant for certain losses.

The Ohio Department of Insurance also suggests renters check with an insurance agent to determine the value of possessions or if the policy will affect your roommate or roommates. Also ask about any special optional coverage that may be needed for valuable collections, artwork or other unusual circumstances.

Jill Sell is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, home and garden. Jill can be reached at jillsell@en.com