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New Kensington fire shows importance of renters insurance |
Valley News Dispatch

New Kensington fire shows importance of renters insurance

Brian C. Rittmeyer
Brian Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
This house on Seventh Street in New Kensington contained three apartments when it burned on Thursday, April 4, 2019. The cause of the fire is undetermined.
Brian Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
New Kensington firefighter Wayne Erb describes how he saw flames coming out the windows of a Seventh Street house and beginning to climb the side wall on Monday, April 8, 2019. Erb was driving home from work when he came upon the fire on Thursday, April 4, 2019.
Brian Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
Officials say this house on Seventh Street in New Kensington is a total loss after a fire on Thursday, April 4, 2019.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Firefighters from Highland Fire Department ready to fight a fire in apartment buildings at Durham Court Apartments on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in McCandless. The building’s tenants were required to show proof of renters insurance before being allowed to move in.

Homeowners have insurance, and so should renters, says Dave Buono, a consumer liaison for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

Renters need to know that their landlord or property owner’s insurance won’t cover their belongings in situations such as a fire, leaving them to pay to replace everything that is lost.

Most rental insurance policies range from $20 to $30 per month, Buono said.

But only 37% of renters have insurance, according to the department.

“It’s not an expensive policy to have,” he said. “If you have an auto policy, you can bundle it and get a discount. It’s absolutely worth looking into.”

An April 4 house fire in New Kensington serves as a cautionary tale. The house at 1134 Seventh St. was heavily damaged.

The house had three separate apartments across each of its floors, and none of the tenants had renters insurance.

Having lost everything, they are now struggling to find new homes and replace everything they lost.

The situation was different when a 30-unit McCandless apartment building was damaged by fire Wednesday. The building’s owners required residents to show proof of renter’s insurance before they could move in.

But unless required by a landlord, there is no requirement for a renter to be insured, Buono said.

While the property owner’s policy will cover the building, renters insurance covers the tenant’s possessions, said Sam Marshall, president and CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania.

“Whether you rent or own, insurance is a valuable thing to have,” Marshall said. “We encourage people to get it. You’re far better preparing for contingencies than you are preparing for disasters. That’s what insurance is.”

A rental policy also may cover losses outside the home, such as a stolen laptop computer or when a bag is lost while traveling. It probably won’t, however, cover losses in a flood, and a separate flood insurance policy would be needed.

A policy can be started at any time, regardless of when a lease was signed, according to the department.

“I look at renters insurance as one of those things that if you are renting an apartment, you should look into purchasing renters insurance,” Buono said. “It’s not a high-dollar policy to purchase. It provides peace of mind knowing that your things are taken care of if heaven forbid something happens.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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