Renters insurance usually covers water damage — see how to file a claim

  • If you have renters insurance, water damage is generally covered..
  • Mold will only be covered if it’s the result of a covered event, like an AC unit that breaks.
  • If water damage makes your home unlivable, your policy could cover the cost to stay somewhere else.
  • Policygenius can help you compare renters insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

If you’re renting your home, you’ll want to get renters insurance. Landlords have insurance to cover the building and structure, but your belongings inside the rental unit are your responsibility. Renters insurance protects your belongings from damage and theft. 

There are limitations to the coverage you get with a renters insurance policy, and it all depends on the type of “peril” your policy insures against. A peril refers to a specific event, like falling objects or an overflow of water, and the way perils are addressed in your insurance policy determines whether or not you’ll be covered against damage.

There are different types of homeowners insurance (renters insurance is one type), but they all fall into one of two categories: named peril or open (all) peril. A named peril policy covers you for listed events, like a fire, storm, or theft, but an “open peril” policy covers just about anything that might happen, unless your policy specifically notes that it’s not covered. Open peril offers more coverage than named peril.

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Let’s turn to a specific type of peril that you’ll want to insure against: water damage.

Does renters insurance cover water damage?

Yael Wissner-Levy, vice president of communications at Lemonade Insurance, said that as a renter, you are protected from anything that suddenly causes water damage without any prior known issues, like the accidental overflow of water or steam from plumbing, heating, AC, or sprinkler systems.

You’re also protected if your apartment sprinklers go off and soak all your belongings, or if your pipes freeze in the winter and burst.

Renters insurance is a named peril policy and typically covers these events:

  • Fire or lightning
  • Windstorm or hail
  • Explosion
  • Riots
  • Aircraft
  • Vehicles
  • Smoke
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Falling objects
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam
  • Sudden and accidental tearing, cracking, burning, or bulging
  • Freezing
  • Sudden and accidental damage due to short circuiting
  • Volcanic eruption

Source: Data from The Zebra and Lemonade

What about mold damage?

Mold is covered only when it’s related to a named peril (meaning it’s explicitly listed in your renters insurance policy as eligible for coverage), usually under the definition of “sudden or accidental.” 

Lemonade offers the following examples of when renters insurance covers mold: If there’s a fire at your rental and the water used to put out your fire created a serious mold situation in your apartment, any resulting damages would be covered. If your AC unit suddenly breaks, floods your place, and creates mold ruining your stuff, renters insurance would also cover that.

Similar to homeowners insurance, if mold grows over time and isn’t related to a named peril, it isn’t covered. If you see mold growing over time, immediately address it with your landlord or property management company because it would not be covered.

It is always best to talk to your renters insurance company any time you have water damage.

How to file a claim for water damage

Steve Wilson, senior underwriting manager at Hippo Insurance, gave the following five steps for filing a claim for water damage with your renters insurance company.

  1. Contact your renters insurance carrier. 
  2. Contact your landlord or property management.
  3. Take pictures or video of the damage before disposal and clean up.
  4. Prevent further damage by protecting your property — television, laptops, etc. — with plastic.
  5. If your rental is no longer livable, ask your carrier about “loss of use” coverage. Most renters policies have “loss of use” coverage if you need to live elsewhere until your rental is livable. 

Ronda Lee is an associate editor for insurance at Personal Finance Insider covering life, auto, homeowners, and renters insurance for consumers. She is also a licensed attorney who practiced litigation and insurance defense.

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