Renter’s insurance: Crucial for students?

Some apartment leases require tenants to buy renter’s insurance.

Anissa Stocks

Peter PepowskiâÄôs apartment was unlivable for three days.

He said the remodeling of the Marcy-Holmes building this summer came with âÄúawfulâÄù conditions âÄî and damaged property.

Each fall, students move into buildings surrounding the University of Minnesota and bring expensive electronics, bicycles, clothes and other personal items easily damaged or stolen. Some students are covered through their parentsâÄô homeownerâÄôs insurance, but that is often unavailable for those living off-campus.

Tenants donâÄôt always think their property is at risk, said Brandon Walter, a State Farm Insurance agent who serves several Minneapolis neighborhoods.

According to an Insurance Research Council study, only 43 percent of renters in America had insurance in 2006.

Minnesota has some of the lowest homeownerâÄôs and renterâÄôs rates in the country, Walter said.

âÄúRentersâÄô insurance is a simple, inexpensive way to secure your property,âÄù he said. âÄúA landlordâÄôs policy generally only covers the building itself âÄî not the things inside it.âÄù

Property damage or loss is more likely for tenants living in multi-bedroom houses and duplexes, said Nic Puzak,  manager of Cardinal Properties in Dinkytown.

Smaller apartment buildings are more secure and rarely have major issues, he said.

Pepowski and his roommates didnâÄôt know whether they had insurance, but some of the new apartment complexes surrounding the campus, including University Commons and 412 Lofts, require proof of insurance when a lease is signed.

Puzak said there are three âÄúthresholdsâÄù for considering renterâÄôs insurance: if a tenant has graduated, is 25 years old or has more than $10,000 in personal property.

âÄúIf you think about it, $10 to $15 a month for insurance isnâÄôt a whole lot,âÄù he said. âÄúBut what those renterâÄôs policies are for, are the kids who decide âĦ that they want to live in this sort of âÄòanimal houseâÄô environment.âÄù

Companies like University Commons offers coverage to tenants for about $14 a month. The plan attracts a variety of tenants who might not have a homeownerâÄôs policy, said assistant manager Cristina Reginato.

Insurance companies require inventories and estimated value of rentersâÄô belongings, including model and serial numbers for all electronic items.

Most of the incidents of property loss are a result of residents inviting strangers into their homes, said Tim Harmsen, owner of Dinkytown Rentals.

âÄú[It happens] when theyâÄôre having parties and having friends over. YouâÄôre getting âĦ these âĦ predators. People who are disguising themselves as college students … It only takes a second for them to take a computer and walk out,âÄù Harmsen said.

Harmsen said residents should have some type of personal property insurance and should keep track of their belongings.

Insurance provides tenants with assurance that some landlords canâÄôt offer, Harmsen said. Landlords who arenâÄôt keeping up their properties suffer in this market, he said.

After his own experience, Pepowski said itâÄôs important to speak up if there is a problem and to try to solve it with a landlord before it becomes serious.

âÄúDonâÄôt let people push you around just because you think theyâÄôre authority figures. If somethingâÄôs wrong, speak up.âÄù