Originally created 05/29/99

Victim advocates renters' insurance



Rhea Boyd didn't have it and lost almost everything.

Her apartment was among eight destroyed in a fire at Champion Pines Apartments on Wylds Road on Jan. 13. Now she's a staunch advocate for renters' insurance.

"I lost it all," said the 28-year-old Ms. Boyd who estimates her loss at around $30,000. "People from work and family, they helped us. Renters' insurance -- you need to have it. You just never know when something's going to happen."

Fires have destroyed at least 24 apartment units in our area since January. The most recent was at Colonial Village at Walton Way where a fire May 12 destroyed eight units.

Though rates vary, renters' insurance averages $125 per year, said Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine.

"My office highly recommends renters' insurance," Mr. Oxendine said. "Many renters don't fully understand that the landlord and his or her insurance company is only responsible for the actual building -- the four walls and the roof. Any damage or theft of your contents -- whether it's fire or flood, rain, a neighbor's pipe leaking -- you've got to have renters' insurance."

Mr. Oxendine said the tornadoes that hit Vienna, Ga., on April 16 destroyed many apartments of those who did not have insurance.

"It hit an area where they had a lot of renters. Most everybody I met did not have renters' insurance, and it was devastating to those people. We find probably the majority of renters don't have renters' insurance," he said. "I think many people don't have it because they just don't know about it, or people assume they're covered when they're not."

While fear of fire inspires some to seek renters' insurance, something such as a overflowing bathtub or washing machine can also be financially devastating.

"A lot of people think that their personal property is covered by the owners of the property and it's not," said Miriam Hampton, an agent with Blanchard & Calhoun Insurance. "They're also not aware that they're responsible for paying any damage that is due to their negligence."

Chaterica Williams, a resident of Arbor Side Apartments on Boy Scout Road, was left with a mess when her new washing machine overflowed April 26 and flooded her kitchen and dining room.

Fortunately, she could prove that the washing machine had been installed improperly and the company that did the installation was liable for the damage. But for Ms. Williams, that experience was a wake-up call to get renters' insurance.

Insuring for the replacement cost of your contents will ensure that those items can be replaced if they are stolen or destroyed.

Also check the policy's limit for guns, cash and jewelry. A person may need to list those items individually or purchase additional insurance on those items if they exceed the policy amount.

Frequently Asked Questions

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine answered these questions about renters' insurance:

Q: What does renters' insurance cover?

A: The possessions of anyone who rents a residence, whether it's an apartment, house, manufactured home or condominium. Renters' insurance provides protection for the policyholder should someone be injured or sustain damage to their property while visiting the policyholder's residence.

Q: If a neighbor accidentally starts a fire that destroys the entire apartment building, including my unit, will his insurance cover my belongings?

A: His liability insurance may cover your belongings, but only if it is determined he was negligent in causing the fire. The only way to guarantee your property is protected is to have your own renters' insurance.

Q: Will the landlords' insurance cover personal belongings?

A: In most cases, no. The landlord's insurance may cover you if you can prove liability on the part of the landlord, but again, the only way to guarantee your property is protected is to have your own renters' insurance.

Q: If the pipes in my apartment burst, through no fault of my own, wouldn't the landlord be responsible for replacing my belongings?

A: Maybe. If the pipes burst as a result of negligence of the part of the landlord, the landlord my be liable. However, negligence can be hard to prove.

Q: Do condominium owners need homeowners' or renters' insurance?

A: Neither. Condominium owners insurance provides limited property coverage, as well as contents coverage and liability.

Q: If a roommate has renters' insurance, will it cover the other occupant's belongings as well?

A: No. the policy only protects the person named in the policy or a relative living with that person.

Melissa Hall can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.