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Personal property simply means “the stuff you own”—from bikes to laptops, TVs, and jewelry. The relevant coverage for all this stuff is known as Coverage C on renters insurance policies.

Personal property coverage in insurance

Did you know renters insurance covers the stuff you own against certain damages and theft (including theft that occurs outside of your home)? You’d be surprised to hear that a lot of people, especially renters, are unaware of this fact.

Personal property coverage, referred to as Coverage C in your insurance policy and also known as contents insurance, applies to your stuff in the event of a covered loss (more on that in a bit).

What’s considered ‘personal property,’ you’re wondering?

Well, it’s basically everything you own, that isn’t a part of your place. So, for instance, it doesn’t include the physical structure of your rented apartment, or appliances your landlord owns. But it does include your personal electronics, books, clothing, furniture, and so on.

FYI, personal property coverage is also extended to property that friends and family may have temporarily left at your place.

For example, say a burglar broke in and stole your friend’s single-speed bike while you were both out at your local watering hole. Their bike would be considered personal property under your policy when it was stolen, and your insurance policy would likely cover the loss (if your friend’s insurance doesn’t already).

What isn’t considered personal property

Things that wouldn’t fall under the definition of personal property in your insurance policy (even if you own them) are cars and any other motorized vehicle or animals, including birds and fish.

Are you a drone fanatic? These fantastic flying machines aren’t covered in most states, though they are covered in New York, California, and Virginia—

Anything owned by landlords, roommates, or boarders also isn’t covered either.

So if you Airbnb your spare room, and your temporary tenant’s stuff that was ruined by a burst pipe? Not covered by your insurance. Your landlord’s couch that came with your furnished apartment? Not covered either. The walls of your home? Well, since you’re a renter, and you don’t own the building, the physical structure of your home would fall under your landlord’s insurance.

Examining named perils and personal property coverage

Standard renters policies cover named perils—bad things that may happen to your stuff—including fire, lightning, windstorm, hail, smoke, vandalism, theft, freezing, damage from aircraft or vehicles, and riots, to name a few.

So, if a fire in your kitchen destroys your stuff, or someone breaks in and steals your TV, you’re covered by your personal property coverage.

That said, some types of property have sublimits, which means there is a maximum amount your insurance will cover you for. This maximum is usually lower than the personal property coverage limit you choose. Always check your policy to see what sublimits might pertain.

Jewelry, for example, has a $1,500 sublimit for losses due to theft. So even if you chose a $10,000 amount for your Coverage C, a base policy would only cover jewelry theft up to $1,500 (after you’ve met your deductible).

Not to worry, though! If you’ve got certain types of valuables—like engagement rings, or fine art, or musical instruments—you can schedule personal property (what we at CBS call adding Extra Coverage) for the stuff you care about at a relatively small additional cost. When you add Extra Coverage for specific items of jewelry, they’ll no longer be subject to that $1,500 maximum sublimit we just mentioned.

Bonus: The items that have Extra Coverage will also be covered for accidental damage and mysterious disappearance, deductible-free! A friendly tip though… make sure you have all the documents, receipts, police report, and any other info you can get for a swift claims process.

How much personal property coverage do I need?

Do yourself a favor and go over these three simple steps to save time (and money) later:

  1. Walk around your home, and take pictures (or a video) of your personal property
  2. Make a list of valuable items, and estimate how much they cost
  3. For bulk items like shoes, or kitchen supplies, just estimate a nice round number
  4. Add all of this up and round up to the nearest $10K to determine how much coverage you’ll need

For example, if you have $27K worth of items, you should choose a personal property coverage amount of $30K.

Basic policies start with $10,000 of personal property coverage. Increasing that amount to $30,000 may be a smart move, especially since the effect on your monthly premium might not be that dramatic.