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Better safe than sorry: Poll shows renters aren’t covering their stuff

March 19, 2009

SEATTLE – If you're a renter in Washington state, it's likely your insurance coverage falls short. According to data from PEMCO Insurance and the U.S. Census Bureau, 35 percent of Washington residents are renters and a majority don't follow simple steps to protect their personal property – starting with taking out a renter's insurance policy to cover their belongings.

In fact, the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll indicates a majority – 58 percent – of renters in Washington aren't covered if their personal property is damaged or stolen.

"Especially in these tough economic times, taking a few simple precautions now can save you from major hardships down the road. The cost of insuring your belongings is considerably less than the price you might have to pay to replace a significant loss," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson.

According to PEMCO, a renter’s insurance policy covers items kept both in and out of the home and offers liability protection in case someone is injured at the insured location.

"Of course it's always best to keep valuables in secure locations, but sometimes it can't be avoided. Let's say you're a renter and your personal-use laptop is stolen from your car. The cost to replace it would actually be covered by your renter’s insurance – not your auto policy," Osterberg explained.

"Auto insurance policies only cover items attached to the vehicle, so without a renter's policy many of the items we leave in our cars go unprotected."

Among those who do have insurance coverage – both owners and renters – one in three surveyed said they had never taken inventory of their insurable property. What's more, for as many as 49 percent of respondents who have taken inventory, it's been at least five years since they documented their insured property.

The poll also revealed which Washington residents are most likely to keep updated records of their personal property. Those living in Western Washington are more likely than Eastern Washington residents to report recently taking an inventory – for 44 percent of Eastern Washingtonians, it’s been more than five years. Only 27 percent of Western Washington residents say it’s been five or more years since they last inventoried their property.

Females (37 percent) and people under age 35 (50 percent) are also more likely than their counterparts to report never documenting their property. Twenty-eight percent of males and 27 percent of the older demographic surveyed say they have never taken a home inventory.

Western Washington residents also fall behind those on the east side of the state in this area — 33 percent of Western Washington residents compared to only 28 percent of Eastern Washingtonians have never inventoried.

Personal property protection under a renter’s policy covers furniture, appliances, clothing, and household goods from fire, theft, or vandalism. Other items such as jewelry, furs, guns, silverware, computers, and business equipment are also covered, but have special limitations.

Homeowners and renters should keep a list of the property insured by their policy along with the estimated or known values and serial numbers of the items when possible. PEMCO also strongly recommends documenting personal property with photos or videotape, which is beneficial if the items are taken or destroyed.

Both the list and your photos or videos should be stored away from the insured premises in case a fire or other peril damages or destroys them.

"An insurance agent can help you find the right amount of coverage for your property," Osterberg said. "Often times, if you have an existing policy with an insurance company, you can get discounts for adding additional policies. For example, if you already have an auto policy, you’d likely get a discount when you add renter’s insurance."

Visit poll.pemco.com to learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and see how your own answers match up to the results.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent, statewide survey that asked Washington residents several questions about safety issues and insurance habits. The sample size, 621 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 4 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.

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©2014, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, Seattle, WA