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Documenting Your Belongings For Your Renters Insurance Policy

By now you likely know the importance of renters insurance for all renters.


The right policy can save renters thousands in the event of property damage caused by unforeseeable threats to the property or in cases of damage caused by simple tenant negligence. Since renters insurance is so beneficial and is simultaneously surprisingly inexpensive, many landlords or property managers require that their tenants have some form of renters insurance policy.


Unfortunately, for renters, simply having a renters insurance policy is just half of the battle. The other half is knowing the process if a claim would need to be filed, and ensuring that renters have taken proper inventory of their belongings.


If you are a landlord or property manager, help your tenants out by reminding them to ensure they have all the necessary things in order to make a renters insurance claim down the road. If you are a renter, it’s in your best interest to guarantee you have proper documentation of the items that your policy is covering, the last situation you want to experience is one where you have difficulty settling a renters insurance claim amidst an already too-stressful-life-event. For renters, being prepared starts with an inventory of your belongings.


Compile a Comprehensive Inventory of Your Things


A renter’s insurance policy’s effectiveness is largely based on how well you have documented what you own. If you simply take out a policy and then forget about it the next day with the assumption that you’re covered, you may be in for a headache later. Instead, compile a list that documents all of your household belongings–be especially sure to document those items of a high dollar value. Naturally, this list needs to be kept in an off-site location. A paper list won’t be useful to you if it was damaged in the event that is causing you to make the claim in the first place.


While you have the option of placing the comprehensive documentation in an off-site security deposit box, a potentially easier option can be to utilize a mobile app or cloud service such as Google Docs. The adage “there’s an app for that” rings truer than ever these days, and a few apps are available to streamline the documentation process. Apps like Sortly, Encircle, and iKeepM all can be useful in tracking your stuff to ensure you can file a claim easily in the future, some even allowing photo attachments. To make the process seamless, some insurer websites also provide free inventory services, so be sure to check with your renters insurance provider.


Document Your Item’s Details

A comprehensive list is vital, but your insurance company may want more information for a claim than simply to say that your laptop was among the items lost. When responding to a claim insurance companies or other parties will ask for supporting documentation--particularly in instances of theft since police reports and your insurance claim can rely heavily on properly documented serial numbers.

Photograph any items that possess serial numbers, and document the numbers themselves. Keep shopping receipts for valuable items. If you don’t want to store all of these little papers, simply take a photograph of the documents or use a receipt storage application for easy future reference. This allows you proactively documenting the value of your items without facing bulky paperwork down the road.


Semi-Annually or Annually Update Your Lists:

As time passes, your household inventory will change. Some items will be discarded, donated or sold, and you will likely acquire more items–and over time–often will acquire more quality replacements for those past belongings. This means you should be continually updating your inventory of items (once or twice a year is ideal), and should also consider a yearly video documenting the things in your home to ensure there are items that you did not miss.

In the event of a fire, robbery or other claim-creating situation occur, you will be able to easily reference the video and ensure that you are not forgetting any items. During this process, it is also a good idea to compare your new household belongings (and its respective replacement values) with your current renters insurance coverage.

Realistically, a policy you took out when getting your first apartment in college will not cover all of the higher-dollar-value items that you will own as a working adult in your latest rental. Don’t be stuck in the lurch if a disaster strikes by reevaluating your coverage regularly and understand your provider’s policies regarding items that may appreciate in value (like heirloom jewelry or a coin collection). These items may need an additional insurance rider in order to be fully covered.


Having renters insurance is one of the markers of a responsible tenant, but a responsible renter knows there’s more work to be done to protect their stuff. Keeping an inventory of your items and matching your policy with your current lifestyle is key to guarantee that your items will be covered the way that you expect.

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