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Understanding insurance law for renters

For some New York apartment dwellers, the rent they pay is already a big chunk out of their budgets, so if another expense like renter's insurance is optional, they may pass it up. State and federal insurance law does not require renters to carry insurance the way drivers must be insured. However, if individual landlords include the obligation to have renter's insurance in a lease, tenants must comply by law. Like any kind of insurance, the policyholder may assume he or she understands the terms, but it is always wise to know what the policy includes by asking questions before buying.

Insurance policies can be voluminous with many pages of tiny print. This is not because the insurer is trying to hide things from the purchaser but because there are many contingencies and exclusions to cram into one document. An insurance agent will go over the high points, but the purchaser can ask questions to get to the heart of the matter.

Asking what belongings the policy covers and which are excluded is a basic question. For example, work-related items like a computer may not be covered in a renter's policy. The renter needs to know what disasters the policy includes and what steps he or she is required to take to prevent damages. The renter will also need to know if the policy extends to injuries or damages suffered by a guest, a roommate or a pet. Additionally, the breed of one's dog may determine whether the policy covers someone whom the dog bites.

Asking the right questions will provide immediate answers, but even this does not take the place of a slow and thorough reading of one's policy to confirm one is confident of what is covered. The time to discover a valuable or peril is excluded is not in the aftermath of a disaster. Seeking the review of one's policy with a New York attorney who is experienced in insurance law may be a wise move.

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