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    Should I Have Renters Insurance in Military Housing?

    After arriving at our current assignment, my spouse and I joined the installation's Facebook group, where newcomers frequently pose questions and seasoned residents share advice. A recent question lingered at the top, “Do I need renters insurance if I live on base?” A chorus of a resounding, “Yes!” rang out, followed by a long list of entertaining, yet destructive, stories from military families who lived to tell them.

    The confusion stems from a change that took place some years ago. Once upon a time, BAH used to account for renters insurance. However, after private housing companies took over military housing, they were required to offer servicemembers renters insurance because they received the BAH directly. 

    These days, BAH does not include money for renters insurance, and even though many privatized companies require it, they no longer offer it. But even if it's not mandated, should you get renters insurance anyway? The short answer is yes, and here’s why.

    Should you have Renters Insurance Military Housing

    1) The replacement or financial compensation for your household goods.

    The most relatable reason for buying renters insurance, in or out of military housing, is to protect your personal belongings. The housing company’s insurance doesn’t cover damage to your goods. So, if there’s a fire, flooding, wind, or a break-in ruining your household goods, a renters insurance policy is the only path to recoup your loss. 

    In the event of severe property destruction, you are responsible for the contents of your house. The housing company’s insurance for the structure does not cover your belongings. 

    man examining water damage on ceiling

    Photo from Canva

    2) Protection from legal action and major accidents. 

    You never know when a disaster will strike. After a productive morning spent doing laundry, I sat down with my tablet and a cup of coffee. The next thing I knew, our neighbor in the unit below was banging on our door. Our washing machine had leaked water through his ceiling and into his apartment. Thankfully, our renters insurance policy included liability coverage. We submitted a claim and were able to help cover the damages to our neighbor's property.

    Beyond Household Problems

    Renters insurance protection can extend beyond household-related incidents, however. For example, say your dog uncharacteristically bites someone, or your child hits a baseball through the neighbor's window. A policy is handy if a situation with a potential lawsuit should arise. Discuss these types of accidents with your insurance provider to look at coverage and monthly fees.

    Another unfortunate scenario where renters insurance tends to preserve sanity is if a disaster that makes your home unlivable occurs. Insurance companies sometimes refer to this as “loss of use.” Not only can your policy help recoup damage to your belongings, but it can help with displacement costs like lodging, food, pet boarding, and more. 

    hole in broken window

    Photo from Canva

    3) Protection that extends beyond your residence. 

    In a lifestyle where we travel and PCS frequently, insurance that covers all the in-between and transitional seasons makes financial sense. Many policies cover your property even when your stuff is located beyond your address. 

    Take these scenarios, for example:

    • If valuables are stolen from your vehicle.
    • If your belongings are damaged while in a storage unit.
    • If anything happens to your household goods during a PCS shipment.

    4) Everyday mishaps such as a power outage. 

    One summer, we had an intense thunderstorm and lost power. Of course, it was immediately after making a grocery run to restock the refrigerator. With a quick call to our insurance provider, I explained the situation.

    They asked for an estimate of how much money we’d spent on the now spoiled groceries, told us to file a claim, and without delay, our renters insurance policy helped us recoup the loss. 

    battery operated lamp, flashlights, jugs of water, and other supplies during power outage

    Photo from Canva

    The Surprising Affordability of Renters Insurance

    Moving is expensive, and savings are hard to come by. But bypassing renters insurance to save money rarely works in your favor. One minor accident in your home could cost well more more than a year of rental insurance through a reputable company. 

    Based on a 30-year-old tenant with $30,000 in personal property coverage, $100,000 in liability coverage, and a $500 deductible, the average renters insurance costs $148 per year ($12/month) in the U.S., according to NerdWallet’s latest rate analysis.

    This number fluctuates based on location and the significance of coverage. Even if you spend $20 a month on a higher-coverage policy, you’re spending the equivalent of a Starbucks coffee once a week. 

    Don’t overthink it; renters insurance is affordable and widely hailed as worthwhile. It’s possible to save some money by asking for a military discount or negotiating with your current insurance provider to add renters insurance into a cost-effective bundle of services. Military-friendly companies like USAA and NavyFed are good places to start.

    Before You Secure a Policy

    Renters insurance is not one size fits all. As with any insurance policy, you'll want to tailor your renters insurance to fit your needs. For example, if you own valuable jewelry or expensive electronics, you may want additional coverage to a policy. A complete inventory of your belongings (and appraisals) is helpful to have in hand before you shop for the best coverage and price. 

    Here are some high-value items to include in your inventory: 

    • Art 
    • Antiques 
    • Collectibles 
    • Jewelry 

    While there might be more security living on base, military housing isn’t any different than renting off-base when it comes to renters insurance. It’s a necessary expense to protect your belonging and liability.

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    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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