Why property managers should require renters insurance

Laurie Mega
| 7 min. read
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Published on May 10, 2021

Here’s a question: Do your residents have renters insurance? If you can’t answer that question, it’s time to do some investigating.

That’s because renters insurance isn’t there just to save money for residents. It saves money and headaches for your owners, as well. Imagine there’s a kitchen fire and your resident has to move out while you make repairs. Renters insurance will pay for their temporary relocation, which makes it more likely they’ll come back when repairs are finished. Without renters insurance, they may simply break their lease, leaving you with a vacant property.

And what if a visitor’s property is damaged in that fire? Renters insurance will cover the cost, so that visitor doesn’t go after your owner.

As a property manager, if you don’t require—or even encourage—renters insurance, there’s a good chance your residents haven’t looked into coverage themselves.

The solution? Offer renters insurance as a part of your management services at key points in their journey.

Renters insurance can be a win for everyone involved. Your residents get coverage, sometimes for a discounted price; and you and the property owner are protected from covering repair bills (for renter-caused damages) or replacing damaged property that the renter can’t afford.

Renters Insurance 101 for Property Managers and Residents

Before you decide to offer renters insurance, it’s a good idea to have a handle on your options. What does a typical policy cover? How much does it cost? How can you get the best possible deal for your residents? How does it integrate into property management software? There are lots of questions, but let’s start out with the basics.

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

There are different types of renters insurance that cover a variety of things, but the two most common policies are personal property and liability—each with a long list of benefits.

Personal Property Coverage

Personal property coverage will protect against theft of or damage to your residents’ personal possessions within their unit. If an electrical surge shorts out their coffee maker, it’s covered. If a thief makes off with their grandmother’s jewelry, that’s covered, too.

In some cases, personal property insurance will cover other people’s property that’s damaged or stolen within the apartment. So, if that power surge damages a guest’s smartphone or laptop, that’s covered, too.

According to State Farm, most policies will cover damage caused by theft, leaks, snow, freezing, smoke, falling objects, and vandalism, among others.

Depending on where you live, some companies will let you add on earthquake or sewer/drain backup insurance to your policy, as well.

What personal property coverage insurance policies won’t assist with, no matter where you live, is damage caused by floods. If you live in a flood-prone area, you can look into flood insurance from a private company, or go through the National Flood Insurance Program, provided by FEMA.

Liability Insurance

Liability insurance covers unintentional injuries or other harm done to someone in or near a resident’s unit. If a visitor trips on the stairs and hurts themselves, they could sue the resident for damages. Liability insurance will pay for that.

Now, we say ‘unintentional’ because it won’t cover harm that your resident inflicts intentionally (not that any of your residents would do such a thing). Some policies, however, will cover intentional harm done by children under the age of 13.

In addition, renters insurance protects against liability regarding your owners’ properties and potential repairs related to renter-inflicted damage.

Relocation

Finally, renters insurance can cover cost-of-living expenses if your resident needs to move out. If, say, lightning strikes your complex and starts a fire, your residents are covered for things like temporary relocation and related expenses.

Plus, if they’re covered while you clean up the damage, they’re more likely to come back when you’re done.

Do the homework and look into all the options. Being well-informed will help you find the right company and coverage to fit your needs as well as those of your residents.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of renters insurance depends on the kind of coverage that you or your resident chooses. It can vary by the state you’re in, and even by ZIP code. If your property is in an area that an insurance company considers relatively safe, renters insurance will be less expensive.

Other variables that affect the cost of insurance include the type of unit (apartment, duplex, single-family, etc.), the size of the building or complex the unit is in, whether your resident has a pet, and your resident’s credit score.

That said, renters insurance is still pretty inexpensive. The average policy, which includes personal property coverage, liability, and relocation, costs between $15 and $20 a month, according to Business Insider—and can be as low as $12 a month with Buildium’s Renters Insurance, powered by MSI. A policy in that range will usually include enough coverage without a huge deductible.

Should My Property Management Business Require Renters Insurance?

It is within your rights to require your residents carry renters insurance before they sign a lease. This can set the tone with a renter right from the start—and safeguard the owner’s property. As mentioned above, there are very real benefits to renters insurance, including protection of personal property as well as liability in regards to others affected by a renters’ missteps.

Master Insurance Policies: AssetProtect from RealPage

One way to comprehensively ensure all residents and owners are covered is to look into a master insurance plan. Master insurance, in general, is a term that’s often used to define a comprehensive type of umbrella insurance policy.

For example, AssetProtect from RealPage, covers both renters’ belongings and owners’ properties from damage and liability—at no additional cost to the owner. The property management company is listed as the primary insured, which also safeguards the property owner from rising premiums and the need to file a claim on their own policy.

Another value add to a property management business is that there’s the potential for ancillary income through administrative fees (depending on your state laws) directly within property management software.

State Regulations for Requiring Renters Insurance

Talk to your property owner clients to get their input; but in general, it’s a best practice to require your residents to get renters insurance as part of the leasing process. Guidelines on this can vary by state, so make sure you check your state and local laws before making the change.

For example, the San Francisco Gate points out that landlords and property managers can’t require renters insurance in the middle of a lease, where there was no requirement before. If you want to require renters insurance of current residents, you may have to wait until the old lease ends, then add a clause to the new lease.

How to Implement Renters Insurance

If you’ve decided to require renters insurance, here are 4 steps that will get you on your way:

  1. Understand the characteristics of your property and your residents: Do you live in an area with a risk of flooding? Do you have any restrictions on the pets you allow? Are your residents mostly single, or do they have families? How much are residents willing to spend? All of these variables will affect the cost and type of coverage they’ll need. You’ll want to go into discussions with insurance companies prepared with this information.
  2. Shop around: You can look at the national brands, but there are usually smaller companies in your area that may offer a better deal. You should get a variety of quotes before making a decision.
  3. Make it easy: Give residents the option to sign up for insurance through your property management software as part of their onboarding process. Your residents will appreciate how easy the process is, and you’ll benefit from being able to track which residents are enrolled.
  4. Educate your residents: Invite residents to a virtual meeting or workshop to learn about renters insurance. If you’re working with an insurance company, invite a representative to speak to your renters. They can highlight the importance of renters insurance, discuss cost and coverage, and answer any questions that your residents have.

Offering renters insurance to your residents shows them that you care about their possessions and well-being—and it protects you and your property owner from unnecessary headaches. Once you make it a part of your process and strategy, your renters insurance will be yet another way you add your value and expertise to the mix.

To find out more about how Buildium can help property managers offer renters insurance to residents—without adding more to their to-do list—click here.

Read more on Resident Management
Laurie Mega

Laurie Mega has planned, written, and edited content on a variety of subjects. Her work has been published by HomeandGarden.com, The Economist, Philips Lifeline, and FamilyEducation, among others. She lives in the Greater Boston Area with her husband and two boys.

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