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Displaced by a crisis like COVID-19? What to know about your renters insurance coverage.

If you’ve had to move because of the COVID-19 crisis, you might be asking the status of your insurance: is my stuff still covered? Do I need to update my insurer? Is my insurance going to get cancelled?

We’ve been fielding these questions from our Members as colleges and universities have shut campuses, people have moved home to be with family, and some such as nurses and EMTs have temporarily moved to be closer to their life-saving work. (PS If you are a medical responder, we’d love to pay the rest of your 2020 renters insurance bill to say thank you. Learn more here).

For anyone who has been displaced or has moved because of COVID-19, here is what you need to know about whether you need to do anything about your renters insurance.

Your stuff will be covered, at least for the next 30 days

All renters insurance is tied to a “residence premises” – aka your place; the address you signed up with on your policy. Technically, if your residence changes, the status of your insurance will as well. This makes sense – most of the factors that are used to determine your rate and coverage are based on that location, since it is the largest driver of fire, weather and theft risks.

However just because you are no longer sleeping there doesn’t mean your policy is void. All renters insurance policies have three provisions that are important here:

  1. Worldwide coverage for all your stuff that is normally stored at the listed residence.
  2. Coverage for up to 10% of your stuff that has been moved to a different residence than the one listed.
  3. Thirty days of coverage for all your stuff that has been moved to a new residence that you are permanently moving to.

Before broad shelter-in-place orders were issued, when you could leave your place and move freely, point 1 above was probably the most relevant. Your laptop is covered if stolen from a coffee shop. Your bags are covered if they’re stolen while on vacation abroad.

Now the key to determining your coverage in the age of COVID-19 is:

  1. Did you move your stuff out?
  2. Did you do that permanently or temporarily?

With those answers, we can help you make sure you stay covered for good.

Is your stuff still mostly in your old place? No action necessary.

If you are temporarily staying closer to the hospital you are working at, have moved home from school but left your things in your dorm, or left the city to work-remotely from your friend’s country cottage, if you left your stuff in the address listed on the policy, you’re covered.

From your insurance policy’s perspective, a bunch of places are considered “insured locations” – with the two most relevant being your residence listed on your policy, and anywhere you are “temporarily residing” that isn’t already a place you own or rent. If your stuff is in your place or “normally located” there but with you now, you’re covered. No action needed.

If you fully moved out… now it gets complicated.

If you have moved all your stuff out of your old place, things get a bit more complicated. The biggest question is whether you made a temporary move (where you plan to go back) or a permanent one.

If you moved temporarily.
Lets say your college forced you to move out of your dorm or your provided housing for the next month, and since they didn’t know whether you were coming back this year, they made you take all your belongings.

Or let's say you packed up all your stuff and moved in with a friend or relative that lives outside the city, but you kept your apartment, or your name is still on the lease with your roommates.

In general, if your place is still your “primary residence” and you plan to go back, you should keep your insurance and it should cover you as if nothing has happened.

Some caveats though, so look out if these are you:

  • If you moved in with a relative for an extended period, their insurance might consider you part of the household now, and you would be covered under the relative’s renters or home insurance. However, you can not claim on both - if something happens at your relative's place, and you claim on their insurance, you will be signaling that this is your residence now and your other policy may be voided.
  • If you are not with Goodcover, there is a small chance that your policy applies that 10% limit mentioned above to any property removed from your residence premises. This is rare – but if you are worried that it applies to you, ask your insurer, or look for “Limit For Property At Other Residences” or a similar title in your policy. If you have a PDF of your policy, search “10%” and you’ll probably find the clause.

If you moved permanently.
If your move is permanent, you found a new place and moved in, your stuff is covered. This only lasts for 30 days though – your insurer expects that you update them as to your new address within this time, so they can update your policy to reflect the new reality. Most (including Goodcover) will cancel your old policy and issue you a new one to match your new residence.

However, there is a nuance here too – many Members who have moved out in recent days have done so quickly and without a permanent location to go to. They have either put their stuff in storage, stored it with a friend, or have it with them where they are staying as they wait out the storm. It’s hard to look for a new apartment when you are sheltering in place.

In these cases, when you have moved out of your old place but are not yet in your new one, Goodcover treats it like a temporary move (above), where really your “residence” is a bit of a combination of your old place and your current “temporary residence.” We will not start the 30 day moving clock on you until you’ve found a new permanent residence and are finally moving in. You can keep your old policy, and we’ll still cover you despite the crazy circumstances.

This is good, because if you have been displaced by COVID-19 this is the last thing you should have to worry about.

If you aren’t with Goodcover, your best course of action would be to tell your insurer you have moved out of your old place, but have not yet moved into a new one, and tell them not to start the 30 day clock on you. There is no guarantee that they will interpret it in the same policyholder-friendly way that we will, and going to court over a declined claim is no fun. Save yourself the trouble and just drop them a note in writing.

Like with any crisis, communication is key

Whether you have been displaced forcibly, voluntarily moved out, or are just waiting out the storm somewhere other than where you normally live, we understand your concern that your move has insurance implications.

Hopefully this post can reassure you that if you are with Goodcover, your coverage remains as per normal even if you are displaced. If you are able to find a new permanent home during this time, just let us know, no different than a move in happier times.

If you aren’t with Goodcover, we definitely recommend you communicate with your insurer so they know your situation, and don’t cut your cover to 10% of your limits, or worse decline coverage 30 days after your move. Like with any crisis, communication is key and we’re sure they will do the right thing too once they know the facts.

Again if you’re a medical responder, we’d love to pay the rest of your 2020 renters insurance bill to say thank you for the heroic work you’re doing for our communities. If you’re not a medical responder but know a friend or family member that is, please nominate them! Just ping us at community@goodcover.com.

Goodcover is a modern, fair, cooperative renters insurance starting at $5/mo.

Our mission is to build a community of Members enjoying financial peace of mind at the lowest possible cost. Get your instant quote and become a Member today; if you’re switching we’ll do the work for you and you’ll get a refund of anything you’ve prepaid.

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© 2020 Goodcover Insurance Solutions, LLC. Licensed in CA #0M20813

Goodcover Insurance Solutions, LLC (Goodcover) is an insurance agency licensed to sell property-casualty insurance products. Goodcover will receive compensation from insurance carrier partners for such sales. Refer to the Legal Notices section for additional information.

Issuance of coverage is subject to underwriting review and approval. Coverage may not be available in all states. Please see a copy of the policy for the full terms, conditions and exclusions. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of the insurance carrier listed in your Policy Declarations. Coverage scenarios are hypothetical and shown for illustrative purposes only. Coverage is dependent on the actual facts and circumstances giving rise to a claim.