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Renters insurance without a lease: how it works
If you’re renting your home without a lease, you’re what’s known as an at-will tenant. This is a surprisingly common practice, and there’s a lot of reasons why you might want to do it — for instance, maybe you’re renting from friends or family members who don’t see the need for a formal document. Or maybe you live in a converted basement that isn’t technically an apartment, but you still want to protect your belongings.
Whatever your reasons, even if you don’t have a lease, you still need a renters insurance policy. Fortunately, you can get one whether or not you have a lease.
Insurance companies won’t usually ask for a copy of your rental documentation when you buy a policy, nor will they increase your premiums if you don’t have a lease. Living as an at-will tenant doesn’t really pose any barriers to getting apartment renters insurance at all.
Can I get renters insurance if I live in an illegal apartment?
How to tell if your apartment is illegal
Illegal units are more common than you might think. If your apartment violates your local health or building safety codes, it’s technically “illegal.”
Your apartment might be illegal if it has any of the following characteristics:
- No windows (e.g. because it’s in a basement or attic) and inadequate ventilation
- No kitchen and/or bathroom
- Only one exit
- Very low ceilings
- No designated address
Insurers don’t usually ask whether your residence is legal, so you probably won’t have a problem getting a renters insurance policy.
However, if you file a claim and your insurer finds out that you’re living in an illegal dwelling (which might happen if they send an adjuster to your house to investigate the damage), they might delay or deny your claim.
If you’re not sure whether your apartment is illegal, ask to see a certificate of occupancy. This document certifies that a residential building is safe and compliant with all state and local building codes.
What makes me eligible for renters insurance without a lease?
Almost everyone is eligible for renters insurance, whether or not they have a lease. You can apply for a policy as long as you meet the following criteria:
- You’re legally of age and no longer under your parents’ or guardians’ care
- You don’t own the unit where you live
- You have a bank account
As long as you’re a tenant and not a homeowner, you’re eligible. Your lease (or lack thereof) is between you and your landlord; it doesn’t matter one bit to your insurance company.
Can I add someone not listed on the lease to my renters insurance?
Yes. If you’re on the lease but your partner or roommate isn’t, you can list them on your policy as an additional insured.
You don’t have to add immediate family members like spouses, siblings, or dependents (e.g. your children). They’re automatically covered under most policies. Most of the time, people add additional insured parties because they want to share renters insurance with their roommates.
Before you add someone to your policy, consider whether you have enough coverage for both of you. If you don’t, you can contact your insurer and adjust your policy accordingly. Just be aware that doing so will increase the price of renters insurance.
What if my landlord wants to be listed on my policy?
If your landlord wants to be on your policy, you can add them as a renters insurance interested party. You can do this whether or not the two of you have a formal contract, i.e. a lease.
As an interested party, your landlord will be able to view your policy and see how much coverage you have, but they won’t be able to make changes or file claims. Most insurers allow this, and it keeps you from having to add the landlord as an additional insured, which is never a good idea.
Renters insurance for a short-term guest
Renters insurance protects your belongings even when you’re not at home. If you go on vacation and rent a home as a short-term guest, you still have coverage under your regular policy, both for the things you have with you and the things you left at home.
Likewise, if you have an overnight guest at your home and they have renters insurance, their coverage is valid while they’re with you.
If they don’t have their own policy, you can provide coverage with yours if their possessions are lost due to a covered peril like theft or a fire. However, it’s up to your judgment whether you want to file a claim for them or not — you’re not obligated to do so.
If you do file a claim on your guest’s behalf, it counts toward your claim history. That’s important because filing multiple claims can drive up your premiums or cause your insurer to cancel your policy altogether.