Insurance Poll Reveals Misconceptions about Renter’s Insurance

August 8, 2006

Every year Washington residents end up with millions of dollars in uninsured losses that could be prevented. According to a poll commissioned by PEMCO Insurance based in Seattle, there is widespread misunderstanding of what is covered under a renter’s insurance policy.

The poll, which surveyed 600 residents statewide, indicates slightly more than half of the renters in Washington opt to forgo renter’s insurance despite national statistics that show rented households are burglarized at rates 79 percent higher than residents who own property.

“Our poll revealed many renters don’t have a complete picture of the coverage they have outside of a renter’s policy,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. “One of the most troubling aspects is that many renters in Washington think they have coverage from other sources when, in fact, they don’t.”

According to the poll, 6 percent of those who do not have renter’s insurance think their landlord’s policy will cover their personal belongings. Thirty-three percent of respondents cited the reason they don’t have renter’s insurance is because it’s too expensive, while 27 percent said they don’t have enough property to warrant a renter’s policy.

A renter’s policy protects a tenant’s personal property, and it offers liability protection in case someone gets hurt while at the insured location.

“A landlord protects only his interest in the property — that typically means structural damage to the property is covered, not the tenant’s personal belongings,” Osterberg said.

Renters with a policy might be surprised to learn they have more coverage than they think. Only 28 percent of poll respondents with a renter’s policy understand that most personal property in their car is also covered under a renter’s policy.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, theft from a motor vehicle occurs at almost twice the rate for renters than for those who own their home.

While an auto policy will only cover what is attached to the vehicle, items such as a laptop are protected under a renter’s insurance policy.

As an example, Joy Portella, a 34-year-old Seattle resident, recently moved to the area. One morning, she discovered one of her car windows was broken.

“I found an unexpected surprise; it was a basketball-sized rock sitting in my passenger seat,” Portella said. “The night before, I left a Nordstrom gift box sitting in my car that probably looked attractive.”

Portella later found out that her auto policy would not cover her personal items that were stolen.

“I did not know my auto policy would not cover this, but a renter’s policy would if I had one,” said Portella. “It isn’t anything I gave much thought to, but now wished I had.”

Unfortunately, Portella is not alone. PEMCO’s poll data showed that only 45 percent of renters have a renter’s insurance policy.

“Most people dramatically underestimate the value of their household belongings,” said Osterberg. “The average renter has more than $20,000 in possessions, and in the case of a fire or other significant insurable event that can destroy an apartment, that can be a big blow without insurance.”

Personal property protection under a renter’s policy covers furniture, appliances, clothing, and household goods from fire, theft or vandalism. Other items such as jewelry, furs, guns, silverware, computers, and business equipment are also covered, but have special limitations.

“Renters can expect to pay around $10-$13 a month, or $130-$160 annually for about $40,000 of property coverage,” said Osterberg. “In many cases, when consumers have an auto policy, or any other policy with the same insurance company, they’ll get a discount that partially offsets the cost of the renter’s policy.”

Consumers can see how their perceptions of renter’s insurance compare by visiting, where complete results of the PEMCO Northwest Insurance Poll are posted.

PEMCO Insurance commissioned the independent, statewide survey that asked Washington homeowners several questions about home maintenance and other issues.

Informa Research Services Inc. of Seattle conducted the poll. The sample size, 606 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Source: PEMCO Insurance

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