What does renters insurance cover?

Somehow, renters insurance covers both more and less than you might think. A standard HO-4 policy covers your personal belongings in the event of 16 specific “perils” like disasters, vandalism, and theft. But it can also pay for other costs, like temporary living expenses, liability coverage, and medical bills if a visitor is injured in your home. However, standard renters insurance does not cover earthquakes, floods, landslides, mudslides, war, or nuclear events.

The 16 perils

Here are the 16 perils covered by a standard HO-4 renters insurance policy:

  • Fire or lightning

  • Windstorm or hail

  • Explosions

  • Riots or “civil commotion”

  • Damage caused by aircraft

  • Damage caused by vehicles

  • Smoke

  • Vandalism or “malicious mischief”

  • Theft

  • Volcanic eruptions

  • Falling objects

  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet

  • Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or automatic fire-protective sprinkler system, or from a household appliance

  • Sudden and accidental tearing apart, cracking, burning, or bulging of a steam or hot water heating system, an air conditioning or automatic fire-protective system

  • Freezing of a plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic, fire-protective sprinkler system, or of a household appliance

  • Sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current (does not include loss to a tube, transistor or similar electronic component)

Additional coverage

Your individual policy may vary, but renters insurance also covers:

“Loss of Use” insurance if your current home is rendered uninhabitable, including (usually) the cost of a temporary residence, moving, storage, laundry, parking, transportation, and even pet boarding. Liability insurance in the event a visitor is injured in your home. This includes medical expenses as well as legal fees if the injured visitor chooses to sue you for negligence. Some policies even extend this coverage to dog bites.

What doesn’t renters insurance cover?

Two common natural disasters aren’t covered by renters insurance: floods and earthquakes. Most flood insurance is provided by FEMA, and standalone earthquake coverage is available from most major insurance providers.

There’s also the matter of landslides, mudslides, and mudflows. The first two things can be covered by a standalone “Difference of Conditions” policy, but mudflow is usually covered (at least partially) by flood insurance.

Finally, there are some extreme events you won’t find listed in your policy, like war or nuclear events. And of course, renters insurance won’t cover damage due to your own neglect or misuse.

What’s next?

  • We’ve already researched the best renters insurance providers, so take a look at our top picks and get a few quotes.

  • Make sure to ask your renters insurance provider for exactly what’s covered in your policy.

  • Here are a few ways to make your renters insurance premium even cheaper: bundle it with your auto insurance at the same company, install home security devices like deadbolts and smoke detectors, or raise your deductible (just make sure it’s not more than you could afford to pay out-of-pocket).