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Renters in Florida need renters insurance to protect belongings and help you if someone sues after getting injured on your property.

Renters in Florida need renters insurance to protect belongings and help you if someone sues after getting injured on your property.

Whether you’re a full-time Florida resident or a snowbird who spends winter months in the Sunshine State, experts like Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications for the Insurance Information Institute in Saint Johns, FL, strongly recommend renters insurance to financially protect you from losses.

"You should consider purchasing this coverage regardless of where you reside in Florida," he says.

Let’s take a look at why experts recommend renters insurance, how much coverage you need and how to shop for the right protection for your unique circumstances.

Why renters insurance is a good idea in Florida

Your landlord likely has property insurance to protect the building. However, that policy won’t cover your possessions if they’re lost, damaged or stolen. It also won’t help you with temporarily living expenses while the building is repaired.

"The only way to protect yourself financially against disasters ranging from hurricanes to fires to explosions -- as well as power surges, theft, vandalism, and other hazards -- is to purchase a renters insurance policy,” says Friedlander.

Clint Strauch, president of Florida Peninsula Insurance Company in Boca Raton, FL, agrees that anyone who leases an apartment, condo or home should carry renters insurance.

"Some landlords even require that the tenant carry renters insurance to a specific level," says Strauch.

You may not think it makes sense to purchase renters insurance if you don't have much to lose -- in other words, if your personal possessions don't add up to much.

"But if you often have visitors, you're a good candidate for renters insurance in case an invitee is harmed during the visit," says Suzanne Hollander, a real estate attorney and professor at Florida International University in Miami.

How much renters insurance do you need in Florida?

A renters insurance policy in Florida typically provides the following coverages:

  • Personal property coverage -- This will help pay to replace damaged or lost goods. "The easiest way to figure out how much personal property coverage you need to buy is to create a home inventory -- a detailed list of all your personal possessions, with their estimated value. An up-to-date home inventory will also make filing an insurance claim faster and easier, if necessary," suggests Friedlander.
  • Liability coverage -- This provides liability protection against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or your family members who live with you cause to other people. It can also pay for damage your pets cause to a neighbor's property. "The liability portion of a renters policy also pays for both the cost of defending you in court and court awards, up to the limit of the policy," says Friedlander. "Liability limits generally start at $100,000 of coverage, although many experts recommend you purchase at least $300,000 worth of protection. You can also consider buying an umbrella or excess liability policy, which provides higher limits and broader coverage."
  • Additional living expenses -- If your rental property is uninhabitable while it's being repaired, some policies will pay for a hotel and other temporary living expenses, like meals. "Policies will generally reimburse you, up to one year from the event, for the difference between your additional living expenses and normal living expenses," Friedlander says.
  • Medical payments -- This covers an accident or occurrence you are liable for that results in bodily injury. "If a friend or neighbor is injured in your home, you can submit their medical bills directly to your insurance company. The coverage limits are usually $1,000-$5,000. But be forewarned that this medical coverage won't pay the medical bills for your own family or your pets," adds Friedlander.

What may not be included in renters insurance coverage

Renters insurance doesn’t cover everything, though.

What’s not covered:

  • Flood, earthquake, or sinkhole damage. You need to purchase separate insurance coverages or coverage riders.
  • Animals. Your policy won’t provide coverage to replace lost or deceased pets. And you will need to verify that your pet isn’t excluded from coverage in case it bites someone.
  • Roommates/domestic partners. If you share a rental property with others who aren’t family members, each person typically needs to have their own rental policy. However, some insurance companies allow unmarried couples who have been living together to purchase joint coverage (although a domestic partner must be named explicitly within your policy).

Also, "basic renters insurance does not cover very expensive items like precious jewelry or valuable collectibles. If these are important to you, you'll need to ask your insurance representative if you need a rider added to your renters insurance to ensure these valuable items," advises Hollander.

Usually, a renters policy will provide up to $1,500 for these valuables if they’re destroyed or lost to fire, windstorms, theft or other perils listed in your policy.

"If your valuables are worth more than $1,500, consider purchasing an endorsement to your policy to increase the amount of coverage," Friedlander suggests.

Additionally, coverage regarding loss of use and additional living expenses will have a limit that you need to verify.

"Insurance companies won't pay for a night at the Ritz Carlton and a meal at a posh gourmet restaurant. But they will cover you for reasonable hotel stays and meals," notes Chris McDermott, a real estate broker and property manager in Jacksonville, FL.

Types of renters insurance policies and recommended coverage levels

There are two types of renters insurance policies you can choose from, according to Friedlander:

  • Actual cash value policy. This type of policy pays to replace your possessions minus depreciation (the reduction in the value of items due to use and age) up to the policy’s limit.
  • Replacement cost coverage. This pays the actual cost of replacing your possessions -- with no deduction for depreciation -- to the policy's limit. "The price of replacement cost coverage is about 10% more than actual cash value coverage. But it will reimburse you up to 30 to 50% more for your damage or loss possessions," adds Friedlander.

Also, renters policies often carry a $250, $500 or $1,000 deductible. This is the amount you pay out-of-pocket for each claim before the insurer pays the claim.

Note that a typical renters insurance policy provides at least $100,000 in liability coverage, which is often enough for most needs. But experts often recommend upping this limit to $300,000 or more.

Commonly, policies include at least $10,000 in personal property coverage, although the pros advise increasing this to $30,000 or more to be safe.

When it comes to additional living expenses, many policies offer between $1,500 and $5,000 of coverage, which is often sufficient.

And regarding medical payment coverage, the experts suggest having a minimum of $1,000 in place; $5,000 is safer.

How to shop for cheap renters insurance in Florida

Fortunately, there are dozens of insurance companies to pick from in Florida.

"Policies are available through national and regional insurers, Companies that offer homeowners insurance usually also sell renters insurance, too," says Friedlander.

McDermott recommends starting with your auto insurance carrier/agent. Your insurer may offer you a bundled discount because you already have a policy with them.

Premiums can vary widely, so it pays to shop around. The Insurance Information Institute recommends you get at least three quotes from different types of insurance carriers.

"Some insurers sell directly through their own agents," Friedlander says, "while many others are represented by independent agents."

To possibly lower your costs, Hollander recommends these tips:

  • Ask if paying the premium in one lump sum -- instead of monthly or semiannually -- will qualify you for a discount.
  • Watch your credit score. A high credit score may qualify you for a lower rate.
  • Confirm the age of the house or apartment you’re renting. An older residence may increase the rate.
  • Verify that you understand the premium and the deductible. Increasing your deductible may lower your premium.
  • Ask if you’re eligible for discounts if the rental has smoke detectors, deadbolt locks or a security system.

Which parts of Florida have the cheapest renters insurance?

Premium rates typically run higher in major metropolitan areas, such as Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Metro Orlando, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.

Hollander found that Palm Bay and Gainesville are among the least expensive areas for renters insurance, "based on the number of claims made on the insurance by ZIP code," she says.

The average renters insurance policy premium in Florida is $218 annually, or approximately $18 a month, according to Friedlander. Compare that to the national average premium for renters insurance: $187.

"You have to remember that rates are typically higher in coastal states like Florida that are prone to hurricanes," Friedlander says.

Find out the average renters insurance for your ZIP code.

Renters insurance in Florida by coverage level has researched renters insurance carriers and policies in Florida. Here are the lowest annual premiums for barebones renters insurance coverage (which provide a maximum of $12,000 for personal property, $100,000 for liability and a $500 deductible)*:

  • Travelers: $125
  • Allstate (Castle Key): $126
  • Citizens Property Insurance: $144
  • First Floridian Auto & Home Insurance: $145
  • Universal Property & Casualty Insurance: $158
  • Nationwide: $244
  • State Farm: $367

Here are the minimum annual premiums for mid-level renters insurance coverage levels (providing a maximum of $20,000 for personal property, $100,000 for liability and a $500 deductible)*:

  • Travelers: $210
  • Universal Property & Casualty Insurance: $219
  • Citizens Property Insurance: $224
  • Allstate (Castle Key): $224
  • First Floridian Auto & Home Insurance: $248
  • Nationwide: $434
  • State Farm: $503

And here are the minimum annual premiums for higher-end renters insurance coverage levels (providing a maximum of $60,000 for personal property, $300,000 for liability and a $1,000 deductible)*:

  • Travelers: $302
  • Citizens Property Insurance: $311
  • Allstate: $326
  • First Floridian Auto & Home Insurance: $360
  • Nationwide: $578
  • State Farm: $622
  • Universal Property & Casualty Insurance: $799

*Note that the cheapest premiums quoted for one type of coverage may not necessarily be the cheapest for other coverage types.