In the wake of the economic downturn of the last seven or eight years, more people are renting than buying homes. But if you rent, make sure your belongings are covered by a renters insurance policy. That includes folks who live in barracks and family housing.

Too many military people assume personal belongings such as TVs, clothes and computers are covered for loss by the government or their landlord, said Mike Nixon, vice president for insurance operations with Armed Forces Insurance.

If you live in privatized military housing, your monthly rent might include renters insurance, but check your contract or with the privatized housing company. If you don't have that coverage, you need it.

If you live in the civilian community, chances are good that renters insurance is not included in your rent payment.

"If we can talk to them, we can explain it," Nixon said. "It's the ones you don't communicate with that you worry about."

Make sure your renters insurance policy covers theft, too.

And when you make a permanent change-of-station move, maintain your renters or homeowners policy during the move. When the government is handling your move, the assigned moving company is liable for full replacement value of up to a maximum of $50,000, depending on the size of the shipment.

Last year, USAA had claims for about 1,800 moving and storage losses under renters policies, said Rebecca Hirsch, a company USAA. Statistics were unavailable for related losses under homeowners policies. The total amount of the claims paid was about $1.2 million.

"This represents a portion of the damages due to moving and storage losses," she said. "In most cases, government coverage pays some portion of the loss, but we do not have that data.

Although she doesn't have a breakout of how many of the losses were from government moves and how many were from private moves, Hirsch said very few of these likely would be private moves.

The government coverage (through the moving company) and private insurance coverage both have limitations and exclusions, she said. For example, a private homeowners or renters insurance policy doesn't cover damage caused by the moving company during the move, but it covers your items in the case of typically covered losses such as fire, windstorms and vehicle accidents.

Hirsch advises taking a photo or video inventory of your property, especially electronics and furniture. And if you're moving expensive items such as collectibles, consider getting an insurance coverage review to see whether you need a separate policy, such as a valuable personal property policy.

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.

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