Water is an incredibly destructive force. I saw this three times during my five-year stint as an apartment building manager.
- An ice dam on the roof, which hardly ever happens in Seattle, caused water to leak into a couple of units.
- A flash flood caused by days of heavy rain and a sewer-system failure dumped five feet of muddy water into the underground parking garage.
- A backed-up toilet overflowed for about three hours, leaking into several apartments and the basement laundry room.
None of these situations could reasonably be anticipated. Then again, most of us don’t get hit by uninsured drivers or diagnosed with rare illnesses — but most of us consider car and health coverage to be necessary evils.
You also need renter’s insurance, to cover that which comes out of the blue — or from the apartment upstairs.
Every lease I filled out required the new tenant to promise he would get renter’s insurance. I’m betting almost none of them did. Maybe you don’t think you need to, either.
But when you live in an apartment building you are at the mercy of strangers. Sometimes these strangers smoke in bed or are destructive of plumbing (see “backed-up toilet,” above). And sometimes Mother Nature throws flash floods or ice dams into the mix.
How much to replace?
The landlord insures his property, not yours. It’s up to you to protect your belongings. That includes your personal finances: A renter’s policy will probably include liability, so you’re covered if your usually placid basset nips the mailman or a party guest trips over the welcome mat.
Try this: Walk around your place and add up how much it would take to replace your sofa, chairs, bed, sheets, comforter, pillows, towels, shoes, dresser, table and clothes.
That much, huh? Now add in some or all of the following: television, smartphone, books, DVDs, jewelry, computer, printer, MP3 player or even your piggy bank (a renter’s policy will cover a certain amount of lost cash).
Still feel like shining on that renter’s insurance policy?
Naturally you don’t want to pay an extra $150 to $300 per year for something you’ll probably never use. Dude, that’s the definition of insurance. I hate to think how many thousands of dollars in premiums I paid over the years, and the only at-fault accident I ever had was a 1982 fender-bender in a New Jersey traffic circle.
Somehow auto insurance and health insurance seem to make more sense. They’re shields against the drunk driver or the cancer diagnosis. By contrast, the possibility of an apartment building fire or a litigious letter carrier seem remote.
Pay now or (possibly) pay later
Maybe you will live a charmed life, untouched by catastrophe. Don’t bet on it.
Maybe a windstorm will drive a tree branch through a window. (This actually happened to someone I know.)
Maybe a short-circuit will cause a fire. (This happened to a relative of mine.)
Or maybe the upstairs neighbor will use too much toilet paper and then watch TV for three hours while water seeks its lowest level.
As a first responder I can tell you with certainty that shit does, in fact, happen. Make sure you’re protected. Also: Use some bleach in that mop water.