While our main focus at Harrington Group is fire protection for commercial and industrial facilities, from time to time, we think it’s important to provide fire safety tips for residential buildings. And, since it’s resolution season again, we wanted to take some time to talk about something that continues to fall to the wayside year after year. Renters’ insurance.

More than 50 percent of young renters in the United States don’t have insurance on their personal belongings. That means all those MacBook Pros, XBox 360s and sets of Ikea furniture would have no protection if they’re destroyed in an apartment or house fire.

According to a survey commissioned by nationwide in 2014, renters among households headed by 25- to 34-year-olds increased by more than a million from 2006 to 2011, and 56 percent of those renters do not have renters’ insurance. Jeff Harrington can also attest to the fact that many seniors living in apartments in independent living and assisted living facilities do not have rental insurance. Many of these seniors have their most valuable possessions with them, which are not covered by insurance in the event of loss. Jeff’s parents live in an apartment in an independent living facility. Their building was recently struck by lightning, which resulted in a significant fire in an unsprinklered portion of the attic. Many apartments in this portion of the building were a total loss, including their precious contents, due to smoke and fire suppression water. Thankfully, no one was injured in that incident, but renter’s insurance would have been key to the individuals living in those apartments.

Why do so many renters go without the protection that could make all the difference in the world in the case of a catastrophe? Unfortunately, 40 percent of uninsured renters say they don’t think they need it, despite having at least $5,000 worth of belongings in their homes. And according to the online survey, 75 percent of those without it had no idea how affordable renters’ insurance actually is: roughly $15-20 a month—less than most of us spend on coffee each month. And a lot of companies will let you pay for the entire year in one lump sum, saving you even more money.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that the year 2014 saw over 90,000 apartment structure fires, resulting in close to one billion in damages. Fire is one of the three most common causes of possession loss, along with water damage and theft, according to VP Personal Auto Product & Pricing at Nationwide Larry Thursby. Nationwide has been helping renters insure their belongings for more than 70 years, so we asked Thursby a few questions about renters’ insurance and why you should make it a priority in 2016.

Why is renters’ insurance important?  

First and foremost, renters’ insurance helps to protect the things that you own while they’re in your home. Typically a renter’s claim isn’t for just a single item—it’s for lots of items at one time. Most people wouldn’t be able to afford to replace several items within their home all at one time. In addition, renters’ insurance can help cover temporary expenses for living elsewhere if your home can no longer be inhabited (for instance, if there were a fire).

What does it cover?  

Renters’ insurance protects you and your possessions from things like fire, theft, and water damage (the three most common causes of loss). However it’s best to talk to an insurance professional to find out the specifics.

What are some common misconceptions about renters’ insurance?  

Many people believe that renters’ insurance is expensive, but nothing could be further from the truth.  

Why do you think so many young people don’t have it?  

Many people think that if they don’t own a home, they don’t need insurance. However, all renters own items—and renters’ insurance helps to protect those items if something unexpected were to occur.

What advice would you give someone who is trying to figure out what type of renters’ insurance is best for them?  

Talk to a company like Nationwide who specializes in insurance for homes and renters.
So as you go into the New Year, consider whether or not all your belongings are covered in the case of a catastrophe. All too often, renters learn how crucial insurance is after it’s too late. Don’t assume that your landlord’s insurance will cover your possessions (it usually doesn’t), and shop around to see what the best and most affordable options are for you and your particular living situation. And hey, as far as New Year’s resolutions go, this one is pretty easy.