District of Columbia or Washington, DC Renters Insurance

Washington, DC renters insurance covers loss of property but includes other coverage, including personal liability. Here’s what you should know.
Written by Rachel Rigolino
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
You can purchase renters insurance in the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) for about $158 per year. Renters insurance will help cover the cost of your property if it is stolen or damaged by named perils. Most policies include personal liability coverage, which pays for injury to others or damage to their property while in your home. 
You’ve found your dream apartment or house in the perfect DC community—just blocks from where our nation’s political life is bubbling! But before you begin planning your first dinner party, give some thought to your renters insurance policy, so you’re protected in case of emergency. 
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What is renters insurance?

The purpose of insurance is to provide you with financial assistance when the unexpected happens, protecting your personal property if it is damaged by a named peril or is stolen. 
Renters insurance is broken down into various types of coverage. Standard comprehensive policies cover all of the following:
  • Property coverage (Coverage C): This part of your policy is designed to pay out when your personal property is destroyed or damaged. The amount of money you receive depends upon what kind of coverage you have—Actual Cash Value (ACV) or Replacement Cost Value (RCV). 
  • Loss of use coverage (Coverage D): Coverage D, or additional living expense (ALE), pays for the costs of living expenses, like a hotel or food delivery, if you can’t live in your home while it is renovated due to a named peril.
  • Personal liability (Coverage E): If another person is injured or their property is damaged while on your property, your personal liability insurance will cover the cost you’re legally mandated to pay, including court and attorney fees. 
  • Medical payments (Coverage F): This part of a comprehensive policy covers smaller medical bills. In this case, let’s say your guest sprained her ankle after slipping on your throw rug. Your coverage F would cover any medical bills between $1,000-$5,000 (depending upon the particulars of your policy).
Likely, upon signing your lease (or even before), your landlord will expect you to show proof of liability coverage (Coverage E). You may even be required to carry a certain amount of this type of coverage. Check your lease for details.

What does renters insurance cover?

Standard comprehensive policies cover these types of incidents or perils as they are called by insurers:
  • Water damage caused by many (not all) plumbing issues
  • Smoke and fire damage
  • Damage caused by a break-in
  • Stolen property
  • Damage caused by wind, hail, and lightning 
  • Damage caused by falling objects and explosions
When you design your policy, be sure to take a look at what perils are covered. 

What does renters insurance not cover?

Renters insurance typically does not cover:
  • Water damage due to natural events such as floods and storms. Renters insurance will typically pay for costs associated with water damage created by burst water pipes or a leaking water heater, but they do not cover flood damage. 
  • Damage to items used solely for business purposes. Most renters insurance policies do not cover electronics and other items used to run at-home businesses or used for work from home. 
  • Damage to collectibles and jewelry: Expensive antiques, jewelry, and collectibles will require a rider—or additional insurance. So, if you’ve inherited your great-great uncle’s mint baseball card collection, consider adding a rider to your policy covering their estimated value.
  • Damage to your vehicle—even if it happens on your property. If a tree falls on your car while it’s sitting in your driveway, your renters insurance won’t cover the cost of repairing the damage. If you have comprehensive
    car insurance
    , you should be covered by that policy.
Because Washington, DC is susceptible to flooding from rivers and coastal waters, you may want to consider flood insurance. This is especially true if the property you are renting is located within a designated floodplain. 

Is renters insurance required in the District of Columbia (Washington, DC)?

Renters insurance is not legally required in Washington, DC, However, your landlord will likely want to see proof that you do, in fact, have renters insurance.  

How to build a District of Columbia renters insurance policy

The following are some tips for creating a policy that works for you:
Inventory what you own. This doesn’t mean that you create an intricate database noting all of your washcloths and dishes. However, do record items that would be costly to replace. This may include your professional chef-grade pots and pans as well as your big screen televisions and sofa from the MOMA design store. 
  • Create a database of big-ticket items. Do keep a written inventory of larger items, noting when they were purchased and for how much. File electronic receipts away as well.
  • Take photographs of what you own and/or shoot a video of your home—and store the images/video in the cloud. In case of a disaster, you’ll be able to retrieve the information to submit to the insurance company.
Consider the size of your deductible carefully. Yes, having a higher deductible will result in a lower cost for your policy, but are you comfortable knowing that you’ll have to pay, let’s say, $2000 out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in?

Actual cash value vs. replacement cost

You’ll have a choice between Actual Cash Value (ACV) and Replacement Cost Value (RCV) coverage on your personal property. ACV is cheaper because it will only pay out the value of an item at the time it is damaged. Conversely, RCV pays out what it would cost you to replace the item with a new item—but it is more expensive upfront. 
For example, a MacBook Air bought 4 years ago for $2,000 ruined due to a covered peril may only garner $500 under ACV coverage. However, if you have RCV coverage, you would receive a check comparable to the original amount.
If you don’t want to pay for RCV insurance upfront, you may be out more money if an item needs to be replaced. Consider the risk you’re willing to tolerate before choosing your policy. 
Pro Tip Ask for electronic receipts and file them away in the cloud. This way, you can demonstrate what an item cost to the insurance company.

How to find cheap renters and car insurance

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For most people, the relatively low cost of renters insurance is worth the peace of mind that comes with knowing their personal property is protected. Even if your furniture consists mainly of your grandmother’s hand-me-downs, think about what it would cost to replace it in case of smoke damage or vandalism.
District of Columbia (Washington, DC) renters insurance will typically run you around $158 a year.
You could save 15% or more on renters insurance by bundling
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