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Insurance for tenants is a good policy

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When insurance of all kinds seems more expensive all the time, it's curious that one of the more reasonably priced insurance products is also one of the least used. Such is the case with tenants insurance. For a few hundred dollars or less, renters can protect their furniture, stereos, VCRs, and clothing from fire and theft. But a lot of renters apparently don't feel they have enough property worth protecting.

In a recent survey conducted for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group, 65 percent of those responding did not have tenants insurance. The reasons for this are somewhat of a mystery even to officials at the institute. But a possibility seems to lie in the age and economic situation of many renters.

Often, says Doris J. Handy, assistant manager of consumer affairs at the institute, renters are young people fresh out of school and starting their first homes. They may look around their new apartments, see a collection of odds and ends left over from college or picked up from relatives and garage sales, and decide they don't own enough to bother with insurance. Also, it seems like just one more expense.

``A lot of young people start out on a pretty tight budget,'' Mrs. Handy notes. ``They don't take time to add up all the things they've got. But if you have a TV, a VCR, and stereo equipment, you can have over a thousand dollars' worth right there.''

Add in clothes, kitchen appliances, and quickly gathering furniture, and it doesn't take long to reach a $2,000, $3,000, or $4,000 level.

Another reason renters sometimes give is the belief -- a mistaken one -- that the landlord's policy covers them. The landlord's insurance only covers damage to the house or apartment building itself and to contents the landlord owns, like hall or lobby furniture, stoves, or refrigerators. Such a policy does not cover tenants' personal belongings.

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