What Most People Don’t Know About Renter’s Insurance

There’s a lot about the roommate experience that can be tricky. Like chores, chores and, uh… chores. But even after you’ve mastered homekeeping, there are still some things about sharing a home that may come as a surprise. For example, your roommate’s renter’s insurance policy might not cover your stuff.

Insurance is complicated to begin with, and because policies and laws vary from company to company and state to state, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to understanding where, when and how you and your roommate are covered against theft and loss. But here are some things you should know:

You need to be named on the policy to be covered.

So you answered a Craigslist ad and moved into your new roomie’s extra bedroom. Even if they already have renter’s insurance to cover the place, you’ll need to have your name added to the policy to benefit from it (even if you’re not on the lease). If your name isn’t on the policy, you can’t make a claim if your property were ever lost.

Something else to keep in mind: Some company policies and local laws might prevent more than two unrelated adults from being named on the same policy, so if you have more than two roommates sharing an apartment, sharing a policy might not be an option (you can always buy your own individual policies, though). A quick call to a local insurance provider will provide the answers you need.

If you’re sharing a policy, you might need to up your coverage.

If you’ve done your homework up until now and asked your new roommate to add you to their policy, here’s another thing to keep in mind: You might want to reexamine the dollar amount the policy covers. To give an oversimplified example, your roommate might already have a policy that covers $10,000 of their belongings, so you move in and ask to have your name added to the policy. Great. But if you also have $10,000 worth of stuff, you’ll now need a policy that covers $20,000 of total loss to rest assured that all of your things are protected.

Roommate Tip: If your coverage is evenly split, it makes sense to split the policy premium 50/50, too. But if one of you requires more coverage than another, you may want to split the bill proportionally. Get two quotes: One for twice as much coverage as the person with less to insure, and have that person pay half of that quote, while the other roommate pays the rest of the actual premium.

Sharing a policy means sharing insurance history, too.

Any claims you make against your insurance policy—renter’s or otherwise—stay with you, and can theoretically inform the rates you pay for coverage in the future. When you share a policy with your roommate, you’re sharing an insurance history, too. Even if your things weren’t stolen in a break-in, for example, you’ll still bear responsibility for the claim.

You need to be on good terms.

Sharing a renter’s insurance policy will only work if you and your roommate are friendly and on good terms. With two (or more) names on the policy, there’s a lot that you’ll need to work together on. For instance, when you finally get a check from your claim, it’s likely both of your names will be on the check, and both of you will need to present to cash it (or at least one of you needs to be willing to sign and endorse it). If one of you moves out, you’ll both need to approve removing their name from the policy. And if there is ever theft between roommates, keeping separate policies is the smoothest (and potentially the only) way to get restitution for what’s missing.

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