Should downtown renter's insurance be mandatory?


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Because renters are seriously failing with an average of only 30 percent insured, downtown property owners should mandate renter's insurance.

In a place such as downtown, where there are countless restaurants and the buildings are so close to one another, it makes sense to be insured if you are renting property. Accidents do happen, and it's not crazy to assume that if a restaurant were to catch fire, it could easily travel to an apartment or surround a restaurant and demolish everything inside.

The problem is that a lot of college students, and Americans in general (only three out of every 10 renters have renter's insurance), are not aware of the benefits of the insurance or want to avoid the extra costs. What they don't realize is that paying $120 a year for renter's insurance is really no big deal compared with $30,000 of damaged or lost property in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

As long as they are insured, it really doesn't matter if property owners decide to increase their tenant's rent or ask them to pay it separately themselves. The reality is (and the aforementioned statistics prove), without an extra push from downtown property owners, the majority of tenants will not buy renter's insurance.

The insurance would also cover any damage tenants might accidentally do to their neighbors' apartments and, in the event of a natural disaster or a fire, would give them money for temporary housing. If property owners mandated their tenants to have renter's insurance, it would create a safety net for the renters.

Nothing would suck more than to find out that your downtown apartment was damaged, ruining $20,000 or $30,000 worth of your things. You would have to replace it all, penny by penny, when you could have had built-in security guaranteeing the replacement of the majority of your ruined items.

Also, mandating that renters get insurance is not going to cost landlords any money if they don't want it to. They could choose that renters pay the full cost of insurance — the only thing the landlords would do is ensure that their tenants are insured. This is, in my opinion, a very fair and intelligent tradeoff, and one that will prevent a lot of unnecessary anguish if someone's property were to be damaged.

— Sarah Damsky


Though I recommend renters in downtown Iowa City to acquire renter's insurance, I hardly think it should be illegal to choose not to do so.

There are a few scenarios in which downtown renters would be wise not to purchase insurance, and that alone is enough reason to leave the choice to the consumer.

Renter's insurance for downtown owners is hardly the same thing as car insurance, which is required by law. Mother Nature doesn't have a pocketbook, let alone an account at State Farm.

Because you're insuring yourself against natural disaster as much as anything, purchasing renter's insurance should be a personal decision. This may sound weird, but I can sympathize with someone's opinion not to pay an extra $15 or so a month.

Rent for a small apartment downtown is already through the roof. From a personal perspective, I'm paying $80 less for rent this year than I did last year. Last year, we packed five dudes into one downtown apartment that featured a one small common area that was 40 percent living room, 40 percent kitchen, and 20 percent our trash can. This year I live four blocks from downtown and have a bedroom the size of last year's entire apartment.

If there are people who need to live downtown purely because of quick commutes to work and school, I could see them viewing renter's insurance as an unnecessary expense.

Also, landlords are already required to go to the nth degree to ensure fires never occur. Because they own the property, it's in their best interest to minimize any possible risk of fire.

Maybe that's why downtown fires like last week's are as uncommon as they are.

Just like when purchasing lottery tickets, the numbers are against you. The reason insurance companies (and lotteries, casinos, etc.) make such large profits is because they play the numbers.

They've done the cost-benefit analysis, and they have the capital to cover it. You think flood insurance firms in New Orleans are nonprofit? No, they charge the amount necessary to the very dollar to stay (extremely) profitable.

Does that mean buying all insurance is a bad idea? Absolutely not — insurance has saved many people from overwhelming property loss — but the numbers do merit consideration.

— Chris Steinke

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