Renters Insurance After A Disaster

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
Read this in: Spanish / Español


About Renters Insurance After A Disaster

Renters insurance is a type of insurance policy that provides coverage for renters' belongings in the event of damage or loss due to disasters such as fires, theft, and vandalism. In the aftermath of a disaster, having renters insurance can be crucial for recovering from losses.

The questions below cover a broad range of concerns that renters may have about renters insurance after experiencing a disaster, offering a starting point for understanding and navigating the complexities of filing an insurance claim and recovering from the event.

What You Need To Know

Renters insurance typically covers a variety of disasters, but the specific coverage can vary depending on the policy and the insurance company. Generally, most renters insurance policies cover the following types of disasters:

  1. Fire and Smoke Damage: Damage caused by fire, including smoke damage, is usually covered.

  2. Theft: Loss of personal property due to burglary or theft.

  3. Vandalism: Damage to your personal property caused by vandalism.

  4. Windstorms and Hail: Damage from windstorms, including hurricanes and tornadoes, and hail damage.

  5. Lightning Strikes: Damage or loss caused by lightning, including fire caused by a lightning strike.

  6. Explosions: Damage from explosions.

  7. Water Damage: This typically includes water damage from within the home, such as from plumbing leaks, but does not cover flood damage from external sources. Learn more about flood insurance by clicking here

  8. Electrical Surge Damage: Damage to electronic devices and other items due to electrical surges.

It's important to note that while renters insurance covers many types of disasters, there are notable exclusions. Floods and earthquakes, for example, are usually not covered by standard renters insurance policies. Coverage for these disasters requires additional, separate policies. Similarly, while damage from internal water leaks might be covered, water damage due to negligence or lack of maintenance might not be. Learn more about flood insurance by clicking here

Yes, renters insurance policies typically have exclusions that specify which disasters or types of damage are not covered. Understanding these exclusions is crucial because it helps you identify potential gaps in your coverage and decide whether you need additional insurance. Here are some common exclusions in renters insurance policies regarding disasters:

  1. Floods: Damage caused by flooding is one of the most common exclusions in standard renters insurance policies. This includes flooding from natural disasters like hurricanes, heavy rain, or overflow of bodies of water. Flood insurance is usually available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or private insurers. Learn more about flood insurance by clicking here

  2. Earthquakes: Earthquake damage is another common exclusion. Like flood insurance, coverage for earthquake damage can often be purchased as a separate policy or as an endorsement to your existing policy.

  3. Sinkholes and Earth Movement: Other forms of earth movement, such as sinkholes, landslides, and mudflows, are typically not covered. Specific coverage for these events may be available separately, depending on your location and insurer.

  4. Pest Infestations: Damage caused by pests, such as rodents, bugs, or vermin, is generally not covered by renters insurance. Maintaining the property to prevent such infestations is often considered the renter's responsibility.

  5. Intentional Loss or Negligence: Any damage that results from intentional acts or gross negligence by the policyholder is not covered. This includes destruction of property or harm to others done on purpose.

  6. Wear and Tear or Gradual Damage: Damage that occurs gradually over time, such as wear and tear, rust, corrosion, or gradual deterioration, is not covered. This also includes issues arising from lack of maintenance.

It's important to read your policy carefully to understand all the exclusions that apply. If you live in an area prone to specific natural disasters not covered by your standard renters insurance, consider purchasing additional coverage to ensure you're fully protected. Additionally, talking to your insurance agent can help clarify any questions you have about your policy's coverage and exclusions.

If your rental property is damaged by a disaster, taking prompt and appropriate steps can help you manage the situation more effectively and ensure your safety. Here’s a suggested course of action:

  1. Ensure Safety: Your priority should be the safety of yourself and anyone else on the property. Evacuate if necessary and do not return until it's safe to do so.

  2. Report to Authorities: If the disaster involves a fire, crime, or another immediate danger, report it to the appropriate authorities (fire department, police, etc.) as soon as possible.

  3. Contact Your Landlord or Property Manager: Inform them of the damage as soon as you can. They need to know about the situation to take necessary actions regarding the property and its structures.

  4. Document the Damage: Take photos or videos of the damage to your personal property and the rental unit as soon as it is safe to do so. This documentation will be crucial for your insurance claim.

  5. Review Your Renters Insurance Policy: Check your policy to understand what is covered and the process for filing a claim. Look for information about coverage limits, deductibles, and any specific reporting requirements.

  6. Contact Your Insurance Company: Notify your renters insurance provider about the damage as soon as possible to start the claims process. They will guide you through the steps you need to take, which typically include filling out a claim form and providing documentation of the damage.

  7. Prevent Further Damage: If it's safe and feasible, take reasonable steps to prevent further damage to your belongings, such as covering broken windows or moving items to a secure location. However, do not make permanent repairs until the insurance adjuster has assessed the damage.

  8. Keep Receipts: If you need to make purchases for immediate repairs or if you incur additional living expenses due to being displaced (such as hotel stays), keep all receipts. These may be reimbursable under your renters insurance policy.

  9. Prepare an Inventory of Damaged or Lost Items: List all personal belongings that were damaged or lost, including descriptions, the estimated value, and, if possible, receipts or proofs of purchase.

  10. Work With the Insurance Adjuster: An adjuster from your insurance company will likely visit to assess the damage. Be prepared to provide them with the documentation and inventory list of damaged or lost items.

  11. Understand the Claim Process: Clarify with your insurance provider how the claims process works, including how and when you'll be compensated for your losses.

Filing a claim with your renters insurance for damages or losses involves a series of steps to ensure that your claim is processed efficiently and effectively. Here's a general guide on how to do it:

1. Review Your Policy

Before filing a claim, review your insurance policy to understand your coverage, including what is and isn't covered, your deductible, and any specific time limits for filing a claim.

2. Document the Damage or Loss

Take detailed photos or videos of the damage to your personal property and any areas of your rental unit affected by the incident. This documentation is crucial for your claim.

3. Compile an Inventory of Damaged or Lost Items

Create a detailed list of all items that were damaged or lost, including descriptions, the date of purchase, and their value. If available, gather any receipts, credit card statements, or other proofs of purchase.

4. Report the Incident

If the damage or loss is due to theft, vandalism, or another criminal act, report it to the police. Obtain a copy of the police report, as your insurance company may require it when you file your claim.

5. Contact Your Insurance Company

Reach out to your insurance provider as soon as possible to notify them of the incident and express your intent to file a claim. They will guide you through their specific claim filing process, which may involve filling out a claim form and providing the necessary documentation.

6. Fill Out the Claim Form

Complete the claim form provided by your insurance company. Provide all requested details about the incident and the extent of the damage or loss. Be honest and thorough in your responses.

7. Provide Documentation

Submit the documentation you've gathered, including photos or videos of the damage, your inventory of damaged or lost items, receipts, and any other relevant information. If applicable, include a copy of the police report.

8. Work with the Insurance Adjuster

Your insurance company will assign an adjuster to your case to assess the damage and determine the claim value. The adjuster may visit in person or conduct assessments virtually. Be prepared to show the damaged property and provide additional information if requested.

9. Review the Settlement Offer

Once the adjuster has reviewed your claim, the insurance company will make a settlement offer. Review this offer carefully to ensure it adequately covers your losses based on your policy terms.

10. Complete the Claim Process

If you agree with the settlement offer, you will complete any necessary paperwork to finalize the claim. Once processed, you will receive payment for your covered losses, minus any applicable deductible.

The time it takes for a renters insurance claim to be processed after a disaster can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the extent of the damage, the number of claims the insurance company is handling (especially if the disaster was widespread), and the specific policies and procedures of the insurance company. However, there are some general timeframes and steps you can expect:

Initial Response

  • Immediately to a Few Days: Insurance companies typically respond to claims quickly, often within 24 to 48 hours, to acknowledge receipt of your claim and provide you with information on the next steps.

Assessment and Evaluation

  • A Few Days to a Few Weeks: An adjuster will be assigned to assess the damage. This process can be relatively quick for minor claims but may take longer for more extensive or complex damages, especially if a disaster has affected a large area and many properties.

Settlement Offer

  • Varies Widely: After the assessment, the insurance company will make a settlement offer. The time this takes can vary based on the complexity of the claim and the workload of the adjuster. It could be as quick as a few days or as long as several weeks.


  • Immediately to a Few Weeks: Once you've agreed to the settlement offer, the insurance company will process your payment. The time to receive your payment can vary but is often within a few days to a few weeks, depending on the company's procedures and the payment method.

Yes, renters insurance typically includes coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) if your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered disaster. This coverage, also known as "Loss of Use," helps pay for the extra costs you incur for living elsewhere while your rental unit is being repaired or until you find a new place to live. The intention is to maintain your standard of living during the displacement period.

To utilize ALE coverage, you need to:

  1. Notify Your Insurance Company: Inform your insurer as soon as possible that your rental is uninhabitable and you will be incurring additional living expenses.
  2. Keep Receipts and Records: It's crucial to keep detailed records and receipts of all additional expenses incurred due to being displaced from your rental unit.
  3. Submit Claims for Reimbursement: You'll need to submit these records to your insurance company to be reimbursed for these additional expenses. Your insurer may also require you to fill out specific forms or provide additional documentation.

It's advisable to review your renters insurance policy or speak with your insurance agent to understand the specifics of your ALE coverage, including any limitations or exclusions that may apply.

How To Deal With Renters Insurance After A Disaster

How To Deal With Renters Insurance After A Disaster

Dealing with renters insurance after a disaster involves several steps to ensure you receive the support and financial assistance you're entitled to under your policy. Navigating the settlement and repair process after a disaster can be complex. Patience, detailed documentation, and clear communication with your insurance provider ensure you are fairly compensated and can recover from the disaster as smoothly as possible.

You can find a general guide for dealing with renter's insurance after a disaster in the steps below.  

Steps To Dealing With Renters Insurance After A Disaster

  • Ensure Safety First: Before anything else, make sure you and your family are safe. Follow any directives from local authorities regarding evacuations and safety measures.

  • Document the Damage: Once it's safe to do so, take comprehensive photos and videos of all damaged property. This documentation is critical for your insurance claim. Try to include timestamps if possible, and don't dispose of any damaged items until the insurance adjuster has seen them.

  • Review Your Insurance Policy: Familiarize yourself with the specifics of your renters insurance policy, paying close attention to coverage limits, deductibles, and what types of damage are covered (e.g., water damage, fire, theft). This will help you understand what you can claim.
  • Secure Temporary Accommodations if Necessary: If your rental is uninhabitable, your renters insurance may cover temporary living expenses. Keep receipts for all expenses related to your temporary relocation, such as hotel bills, meals, and transportation.
  • Detailed Inventory: Make a detailed list of damaged or lost items, including their age, purchase price, and estimated replacement costs.
  • Report the Loss: Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the damage.  Be prepared to provide a general description of the damage.
  • Fill Out Claim Forms: Your insurance company will provide claim forms. Fill these out with as much detail and accuracy as possible. Inaccurate or incomplete forms can delay processing.
  • Prepare for the Adjuster's Visit: The insurance company will send an adjuster to assess the damage. Have your list of damaged or lost items ready, along with any receipts, documentation, and photographs/videos of the damage. This is your opportunity to show the extent of your loss.
  • Hire an Independent Adjuster: If the dispute continues, consider hiring an independent adjuster to provide a second opinion on the value of your damaged or lost property. This can be a persuasive piece of evidence when negotiating with your insurance company.
  • Keep Records and Receipts: Maintain a file with all correspondence with the insurance company, including emails and letters, as well as receipts for expenses incurred due to the loss. This will be invaluable for tracking the progress of your claim and for reimbursement purposes.

  • Follow Up on Your Claim: Insurance companies handle a large volume of claims, especially after a disaster. Don't hesitate to follow up regularly on the status of your claim if you feel the process is stalling.

  • Review Settlement Offer: The insurance company will present a settlement offer based on the adjuster's report and your policy's terms. This includes compensation for lost or damaged items and any additional living expenses if applicable.

  • Negotiate If Necessary: If you believe the settlement offer is insufficient, you can negotiate with the insurance company. Provide additional evidence or get quotes from other contractors to support your claim for a higher settlement.

  • Acceptance and Payment: Once you agree to a settlement amount, the insurance company will issue payment. This can be in one lump sum or multiple payments, depending on the nature of your claim.

  • Proceed with Repairs: With the settlement funds, you can begin repairs on any damage for which you're responsible or replace lost or damaged personal property. Always use licensed and insured contractors for any work done.

  • Review Your Policy: Post-claim, it's a good time to review your renters insurance policy to see if you need to adjust your coverage limits or add endorsements to better protect yourself in the future.

  • Keep Records: Maintain all documentation related to the claim and settlement for your records. This includes correspondence with the insurance company, receipts, and contracts for repairs or replacements.

Other Issues To Consider

Other Issues To Consider

These are some of the other issues and questions to consider related to renters insurance after a disaster. 

Other Issues To Consider

If you're encountering difficulties with your renters insurance claim following a disaster, there are several resources and steps you can take to seek assistance or advice:

  1. Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI): This is your primary resource for assistance with insurance-related issues. The LDI can provide guidance, answer questions about your rights, and offer information on how to handle disputes with your insurance company. They also oversee the insurance industry in Louisiana, ensuring that insurers comply with state laws and regulations.

    • Contact Information: You can contact the LDI through their website or by phone. They may also have specific programs or services designed to assist consumers in the aftermath of widespread disasters.
  2. Legal Assistance: If your dispute with the insurance company escalates or you believe your claim is being unfairly denied, you might consider seeking legal advice. Some attorneys specialize in insurance law and can offer consultations to help you understand your options. In Louisiana, there are legal aid organizations that offer free or low-cost legal services to those who qualify.
  3. Mediation or Arbitration Programs: Some disputes can be resolved through mediation or arbitration, which are less formal than court proceedings and can provide a quicker resolution. Check with the Louisiana Department of Insurance to see if they offer or can recommend any such programs for insurance disputes.

When seeking assistance, it's helpful to have all relevant documentation readily available, including your insurance policy, correspondence with the insurance company, any claim forms you've submitted, and documentation of your losses and expenses related to the claim. Being organized and informed about your policy and rights can help as you navigate the process of resolving issues with your renters insurance claim.

If you disagree with the insurance claim assessment or settlement offer from your insurance company, there are several steps you can take to dispute the decision. Here's a guide on what to do:

1. Review Your Policy

Start by thoroughly reviewing your renters insurance policy to understand your coverage, limits, and the valuation method for lost or damaged items (actual cash value vs. replacement cost). This will help you assess whether the settlement offer aligns with your policy's provisions.

2. Gather Documentation

Collect all relevant documentation that supports your case. This includes photos of the damage, repair estimates, receipts for damaged items, and any other evidence that proves the value of your claim. The more detailed and organized your documentation, the stronger your position will be.

3. Communicate Your Concerns

Contact your insurance company to express your concerns about the assessment or offer. Clearly explain why you believe the settlement is insufficient, providing evidence to support your claim. It's often helpful to put this communication in writing, creating a record of your dispute.

4. Request a Re-Evaluation

Ask for a re-evaluation of your claim. This can involve a second inspection by another adjuster or a review of your claim's documentation to consider any new evidence you provide. Some insurance companies have an internal appeals process for disputes.

5. Use the Insurance Company's Dispute Resolution Process

If your insurer has a formal dispute resolution process, follow it. This may involve mediation, where a neutral third party helps you and the insurance company reach an agreement, or arbitration, which is a more formal process that results in a binding decision.

6. Seek Assistance from the Louisiana State Insurance Department (LDI)

Contact the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) for guidance and support. They can provide information on your rights as a policyholder and may offer services to help resolve disputes between policyholders and insurers. 

7. Hire a Public Adjuster

Consider hiring a public adjuster if the dispute involves a significant amount of money. Public adjusters are independent professionals who assess property loss on your behalf and help negotiate with insurance companies. They typically charge a percentage of the claim settlement.

8. Consult an Attorney

If the dispute cannot be resolved through the above steps, consulting an attorney who specializes in insurance law might be advisable. An attorney can review your case, advise you on your legal options, and represent you in negotiations or legal proceedings against the insurance company.

Renter's insurance and FEMA claims operate similarly to how homeowners insurance works with FEMA claims, but they cater specifically to the needs of renters. Understanding the interaction between renter's insurance and FEMA assistance can help renters navigate the recovery process after a disaster. Here's a breakdown of how they work together:

Renter's Insurance

  • Coverage: Renter's insurance typically covers personal property loss due to perils like theft, fire, and certain types of water damage. It also often includes liability coverage and may provide for additional living expenses if your rental is uninhabitable due to a covered disaster.
  • Exclusions: Like homeowners insurance, standard renter's policies usually do not cover flood or earthquake damage. Separate policies or riders are needed for these perils.

FEMA Assistance for Renters

  • Purpose: After a federally declared disaster, FEMA provides financial assistance and services to eligible individuals and families who do not have insurance or whose insurance does not cover all their needs. This assistance is designed to help with essential needs and is not intended to fully restore damaged property.
  • Coverage: For renters, FEMA assistance can include grants for temporary housing needs, repairs, and certain personal property losses. It also can help with medical, dental, and funeral expenses related to the disaster.

How Renter's Insurance and FEMA Claims Work Together

  1. Initial Steps: After a disaster, renters should first file a claim with their renter's insurance for covered losses. FEMA requires applicants to seek assistance from insurance before applying for federal aid.

  2. Applying for FEMA Assistance: Renters can apply for FEMA assistance if the disaster is federally declared. When applying, renters need to inform FEMA about their renter's insurance coverage and any claims filed.

  3. Documentation of Insurance Coverage and Claims: FEMA will ask for information on the outcome of your insurance claims to determine eligibility for federal aid. This process ensures that FEMA assistance does not duplicate benefits provided by insurance.

  4. Filling the Gaps: If your renter's insurance does not cover certain losses or if specific needs are not met by insurance (e.g., temporary housing if your rental is uninhabitable), FEMA may assist with those expenses. However, FEMA will not cover losses that your renter's insurance policy covers.

  5. Assistance for Uninsured or Underinsured Losses: Renters without insurance or those with insufficient coverage may qualify for more extensive FEMA assistance, but this is still within the limits of what FEMA offers and is meant to address essential needs rather than fully compensate for all losses.

Renters should maintain comprehensive records, including documentation of all damages, insurance claims and settlements, and receipts for any expenses related to the disaster. This documentation is crucial when applying for FEMA assistance and for navigating the claims process with your renter's insurance.

By understanding how renter's insurance and FEMA claims interact, renters can better prepare for and recover from the impacts of a disaster, ensuring that they utilize all available resources for their recovery.

Last Review and Update: Mar 05, 2024
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