Are you enjoying that new TV or laptop you received during the holidays?
Do you have renters insurance, or are you prepared to pay to replace that new toy if a catastrophe happened at your apartment?
After the holidays, it's a good time to think about the new possessions you've accumulated, as well as those oldies but goodies, to make sure you're properly insured.
While most people have homeowners insurance that also covers the possessions in their home, too many people don't have renters insurance. According to a 2014 Insurance Information Institute poll, only 37 percent of renters said they had renters insurance.
- Single, no dependents: Do you need life insurance?
- Important tax document to watch for
- Under-insuring your home-based business puts it — and you — at risk
- Life insurance after — or in addition to — SGLI
- Life insurance can pay for nursing home, in-home care
- Comparison chart: 16 life insurance plans
So take inventory of your property, and make sure you have renters insurance — enough of it — to replace your TV, clothes, furniture, linens, electronics, kitchen utensils and valuables if the apartment were destroyed by fire.
If you've acquired some expensive jewelry, artwork or other valuables, check to see whether you need a separate policy in addition to renters insurance, such as a valuable personal property policy. Talk with the insurance company about what documentation you should have, such as pictures and appraisals.
Renters insurance protects you, the tenant, if you suffer some sort of loss. Don't assume your landlord is responsible for replacing your property if there's a fire, theft or other loss or damage. They are not.
That includes barracks and family housing. Previously, private housing developers paid for renters insurance. But last year, because of reductions in rates for Basic Allowance for Housing, approved by Congress, BAH no longer covers renters insurance. New residents and those renewing their leases have to purchase their own renters insurance, which is generally $15 to $30 a month.
That cost is well worth it, said JJ Montanaro, a certified financial planner with USAA. "It makes sense to transfer the risk to the insurance company, so that you don't have to spend your own money to replace your possessions," he said. It also is comforting to know that if someone is injured at your home, you would have liability coverage, he said.
Renters insurance generally includes three types of protection: personal possessions, liability, and living expenses if you have to move elsewhere while the building is being replaced, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
In many states, renters policies will pay to repair or replace personal property you take with you while traveling, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. But most policies don't pay for damage caused directly or indirectly by war, so NAIC suggests asking your company whether the policy will pay to repair or replace property you take with you during your deployment.
Also maintain your renters policy while you're making a permanent change-of-station move.
Many companies offer renters insurance, and most companies that offer homeowners insurance also offer renters insurance. Do some comparison shopping and ask questions of the companies about your own needs. Ask your auto insurer if it offers discounts if you purchase renters insurance from them. Ask the insurer how you can save money on premiums, perhaps by having a higher deductible — the amount of money you pay before the insurance company pays a claim.
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life, and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.