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Is renters insurance right for you? 4 questions to ask

My first apartment was nothing to brag about.

I had a twin bed, a hand-me-down couch from the ’70s (complete with wooden frame and armrests), and a “TV stand” that was really just a dresser I picked up from Goodwill and finished to look like the one in Monica and Rachel’s apartment on “Friends.”

Needless to say, I thought I didn’t have much to insure … but I was wrong.

Had I really thought about it, I also had valuable jewelry from my mother, a slew of decent clothes (for my brand new, big girl job), and plenty of other things that I would have wanted covered if they’d been stolen or damaged in a flood, fire or otherwise.

The fact is, as a renter, I simply didn’t know that I could buy an insurance policy for my belongings.

Luckily, you can. And, there’s a simple way to find out if renters insurance is right for you: Just ask yourself these four questions. If you answer “yes” to any of them, you’d likely benefit from having a renters policy.

1. Do I own anything that might be costly to replace? Your landlord’s insurance won’t cover your belongings—it usually only covers the building structure. And people tend to underestimate how much it would cost to replace the things they’ve accumulated in their homes. Take a quick glance around your space. If you had to replace your things tomorrow—your TV, couch, clothes, kitchen table—you’d probably appreciate a little financial help. Renters insurance provides it.

2. Do I have neighbors? Renters insurance covers more than just your things. If your toilet leaks into the downstairs neighbor’s apartment and damages their furniture, for example, your policy will cover that. Being able to help cover their expenses will make those future elevator rides together a lot less awkward.

3. Does anyone visit my place for anything … ever? Renters insurance will pay for medical bills—and even help cover potential legal fees—if someone gets hurt in your apartment. So if you anticipate having anyone in your home or near your front door (think delivery guy during the holidays), then you’re wise to get the coverage. Medical bills can add up fast. Paying a little each month for renters insurance will likely prove more cost effective than shelling out thousands if someone gets hurt at your home.

4. Do I ever bring items from my home into my car? Renters insurance helps pay to replace your property if it’s stolen from your vehicle. If you’re in the habit of bringing things—a phone, gym bag, purse, fancy schmancy travel mug—from your home to your car, it’s nice to have the peace of mind that they’ll be covered if your car’s broken into. (As an aside, a thief can smash and grab and be on his way in less than a minute.)

Bottom line: If you rent, you probably should consider a renters insurance policy. Keep in mind that renters insurance works like car insurance: you decide how much coverage to buy based on what you own and then pay a certain amount out of pocket (i.e., your deductible) each time you use it.

And, renters insurance can be pretty cheap—usually just a few dollars a month. Take a few minutes now to get a free renters insurance quote.