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Downtown apartment fire highlights the importance of renters' insurance

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Posted at 6:49 PM, Sep 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-15 09:28:00-04

INDIANAPOLIS — According to a 2022 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, only about 40% of tenants have renters’ insurance across the country.

Not having renters’ insurance can make the scary situation of an apartment fire even more stressful.

Tenants who live at Winterhouse Apartments in downtown Indianapolis now know the importance of renters’ insurance firsthand after a fire broke out at the complex.

“You couldn’t even see across the hallway. It was so filled with smoke,” Mackenzie Anderson, Winterhouse Apartments resident, said. “We couldn’t hear the alarms going off, so we grabbed our cats and ran out. I started banging on doors because, once again, you couldn’t hear anything.”

Anderson lives on the same floor where the fire broke out. She says she has never experienced anything like this before, but she does have renters’ insurance.

However, the damage that happens to one’s unit is often times the last thing on people’s mind following a fire.

“When you have a catastrophic event, like a fire or a tornado, your brain doesn’t work the same. You are in shock for a long time,” Connie Mortensen, a State Farm Insurance Agent out of Indianapolis, said.

Anderson says the apartment complex requires all tenants to have renters’ insurance, something she says she will likely have to utilize following Wednesday's fire.

“They had to kick down a bunch of doors so I’m not sure if the apartment would cover that but at least insurance does,” Anderson said.

The average renters’ insurance policy is anywhere from $10 to $30, according to Mortensen. She says submitting a claim is easy.

“Take your smartphone out, put it on video and record your house. Summarize what happened as you’re talking,” Mortenson said. “Then you can submit that to your insurance company or agent.”

She says it takes about a week to get your reimbursement back if you file within 24 hours of a fire or other catastrophic event.

However, she says it’s important that you have your own policy even if you live with another person who has their own.

“The most important thing is your personal property is not covered unless you have a policy,” Mortensen said. “Even if you live with a friend or roommate, if you don’t have your own, your personal property is not covered.”

The average renter’s policy typically covers about $10,000 worth of personal property. You can adjust how much your coverage is by talking to an insurance agent.

Mortensen says if you are renting a house, she typically recommends having about $10,000 worth of coverage per room in the house.