What is Renters Insurance and Do You Need it in New York?

Find out what renters insurance actually covers and what it doesn't. Learn why renters insurance might be a good idea, even if you don't own a lot of expensive things.

You've probably heard of renters insurance but don't think it's necessary for your lifestyle.

After all, you're young, and it's not like you have priceless artwork or a Best Buy's worth of computer or TV equipment in your pad.

Plus, the landlord's got you covered. It's their building or unit, right?

Wrong--the insurance policy your landlord holds does not cover your possessions.

Accidents, theft, and natural disasters happen; unless you have extra cash, you might be in a bad financial bind.

The truth is that renters insurance is a security that is worth buying into.

Do You Need Renters Insurance in NY?

  • While having renters insurance is not mandatory by law, it's definitely a good idea as a landlord is not required to cover any damage to your possessions.
  • More landlords and property management companies require renters to provide proof of insurance to sign the lease.
  • Renters insurance generally covers loss or damage to your possessions due to theft or natural events, including bodily injury, and coverage just in case you cannot reside in your rented unit.
  • Renters insurance is relatively affordable compared to other types of insurance.
  • Going with a major insurance company can help you save money by bundling different insurance together.

What is Renter's Insurance?

Renters insurance, similar to homeowner's insurance, basically reimburses the renter in case of damage or loss of property due to fire, theft, or vandalism.

Renters insurance can also cover liability or bodily damage incurred by visitors to your rented home or apartment.

It's generally not as extensive as homeowners insurance but does offer some important indemnities.

What Exactly Does Renters Insurance Cover?

While coverage may vary from policy to policy, renter's insurance can cover a lot and offer renters peace of mind.

Brittany Alexander, Esq.
Brittany Alexander, Esq.
Founder & CEO of Premier Property Law
What hidden perks or coverage do most people not know renters insurance can offer?
Renters insurance covers living expenses if your house or apartment becomes uninhabitable. For example, let’s say a pipe in your one-bathroom apartment bursts, and you need to spend three days at a hotel while it’s being fixed. While your landlord’s home insurance would cover only repairs, your renters insurance would cover the hotel stay, meals, and other expenses incurred during that repair time.

Loss or Damage to Possessions

All renters insurance policies cover damage or theft to personal possessions up to a certain dollar amount depending on the particulars of the policy.

The damage should have been incurred by no fault of your own--generally due to natural events like a fire or weather-related events such as rain or hail.

This loss can also include loss or damage to your property outside your home.

So if someone steals your tablet or laptop or gets damaged while you are in transit, many policies will cover the cost.

Bodily Injury of Others or Their Possessions

Much like homeowners and auto insurance, renters insurance can cover the medical or dental bills of any visitors to your property who are injured on its premises.

This personal liability coverage may even offer compensation for lost wages due to the injury.

Loss of Use of Rented Property

Renters insurance covers temporary lodging or hotels if your apartment or house becomes uninhabitable due to an accident or natural disaster.

This coverage can also include expenses for food and travel.

Every plan is different, so it's important to read the fine details of coverage.

What is Not Covered Under Renters Insurance?

If you think you don't have to insure your family heirlooms because renter's insurance has you covered, think again.

While some policies may cover your most valuables personal possessions like jewelry or fine art, they will most likely only cover a small percentage.

Some carriers offer more extensive coverage for valuable items, but it'll cost you extra.

If you've got priceless treasures, purchasing separate insurance for prized valuables may be worth purchasing.

Renters insurance also won't cover damage/loss due to certain natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, especially if you live in an area that is prone to these events.

Not all damage or injury caused by your pet is covered.

If your pet likes to chew on furniture or destroys someone else's personal property, you may have to pay out of pocket.

Some insurance providers offer extra pet liability for an extra cost, but not all dog breeds are covered for injury or bites, so it's important to check.

Accidentally losing or misplacing items like your smartphone or laptop also won't result in a check from your insurance company.

Am I Required to Have Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance is not like auto insurance or homeowners insurance which is required once you own a car or a home. It's not usually mandatory.

However, more and more landlords and management companies require their tenants to purchase renters insurance.

Landlords have their own insurance that covers the overall building and common areas and includes damage to your apartment as well.

However, their coverage does not include your possessions, nor are they legally obligated in any way to cover damages to them.

This is true even if there is water damage to your possessions due to a leak from your upstairs neighbor or heavy rainfall.

You Are Not Entitled to Any Coverage Through Your Landlord

True story: Years ago, I had a neighbor whose possessions were damaged beyond recovery when there was a severe rainstorm.

Even though the building was new construction, water leaked through her walls to the extent that she had a fair amount of damage in her apartment and to her personal possessions, including expensive stereo and sound equipment.

She immediately assumed that because the building was compromised in the rain, our landlord owed it to her to pay to replace her personal items.

She did not have renters insurance, and she found out the hard way that it was up to her to replace her own items.

The landlord gave her $100 to give her something. She was upset about it, but what she hadn't realized was that legally she wasn't entitled to a single penny.

Consider if items or equipment you needed for work were damaged in such an incident. That's not just a loss of money for replacing the items but also a loss of income if you're not able to work because of it.

As they say, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Read more: Is My Landlord Responsible For Damage to My Property?

How Much Does Renters Insurance Cost?

The short answer is--not very much.

Renter's insurance is much more affordable than almost any other insurance.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), while homeowners insurance has increased steadily over the past ten years or so, renters insurance has remained fairly stable and even has decreased.

Nationwide, policies average around $10 a month, but some, such as Lemonade or Liberty Mutual, cost as little as $5 a month.

Of course, if you have many precious and costly items in your apartment, you might opt for a pricier policy to ensure full coverage.

$10 a month is a pretty good deal, considering the policy will probably cover tens of thousands of dollars worth of loss/damage and even up to $100,000.

Average renters Insurance is $6-$25 per month or $72-$300 per year in New York.

What Are the Best Renters Insurance Companies?

Renters insurance can be purchased from most major insurance companies. Certainly, vendors who offer homeowners coverage offer renters insurance as well.

These insurance companies include but are not limited to GEICO, Allstate, Lemonade, Farmers, State Farm, Nationwide, Metlife, and Liberty Mutual.

The beauty of going with one of the major carriers is that they can bundle your renters insurance with other types of coverage like auto or life.

Some of the newcomers to the market that are targeting younger renters who might be more tech-savvy are Lemonade, Jetty, and Kin.

Lemonade offers homeowners and renters insurance but uses tech and a low flat rate to streamline the process. They even have a giveback program that donates to charities of your choice.

Below is a list of rates we ascertained for a single person in their 20's, with no pets, living in a one-bedroom in Midtown, Manhattan, looking for basic coverage.

Renters Insurance Rate Comparison Chart for Basic Coverage in New York CIty

Insurance Carrier/websiteInsurance rates for basic coverage
Geico$12.84/month or $94/year
Allstate$14/month or $186/year
Statefarm$10.42/month or $125/year
Esurance$27.52/month or $363/year
Jetty$9.17/month or $110/year
Lemonade$11.34/month or $136/year

What Do I Need to Provide to Get Renters Insurance?

Generally, you'll be asked for your name, address to be insured, date of birth, email address, and safety features already installed at the property, such as fire and smoke detectors.

Some sites require a phone number, and others require your social security number just for a quote.

Depending on how comfortable you feel with that, it may not be for everyone.

Metlife would not provide a quote online and required an insurance agent to contact you directly.

Liberty Mutual and Progressive will only provide you with a quote once you give them your social security number.

The easiest-to-use site and fastest quotes were from GEICO, Jetty, Lemonade, Esurance, and Jetty being the absolute fastest and most user-friendly.

Ruth Shin
About the author

Ruth Shin is the Founder and CEO of PropertyNest. She shares in-depth insights on real estate, personal finance, and home improvement drawing from her experience as a licensed real estate agent, editing personal finance publications, and managing many home renovation projects. Ruth graduated with a BA from Hunter College in Writing, History, and Special Honors.