Renter’s Remorse

Always return your shopping cart to the designated area in the parking lot. As a grocery cart wrangler in high school and college, that’s a life lesson I learned early, on the job. Unfortunately, not all lessons have been so easy.

The one I faced last December was the toughest yet. The shrill sound of smoke alarms followed by screams roused me in the middle of the night. I forced myself out of bed, opened the door to my second-floor apartment and was met by a thick cloud of black smoke. Instantly, instinctively, I switched from sleep to survival mode.

I hurriedly dressed to brave Pennsylvania’s winter weather, grabbed my cell phone, wallet and car keys, and fled, leaving all of my other possessions behind. When I looked down, my shoes didn’t match.

Thankfully, I made it out safely, and so did everyone else who lived in the apartment’s 32 units. But, all of the units on the second floor suffered smoke and fire damage, and all of the ground floor units suffered heavy water damage from firefighters dousing the blaze.

I was able to recover some small items with sentimental value, like my dad’s ceramic Christmas ornaments (he’s an artist) and a box of letters from my fiancée. But all of the big items were lost. A closet full of clothing that included my prized Bo Jackson jersey and Hulkamania T-shirt—gone. I lost my bed and solid oak dresser, both of which I’d had since I was a child. I also lost my brand new leather couch, loveseat and recliner, two TVs and my PlayStation 2.

And here’s the kicker: my landlord’s insurance didn’t cover it. Insurance that landlords purchase for apartments doesn’t cover tenants’ belongings—a fact that I, along with most of my fellow tenants, didn’t know. So, my belongings and all their value were lost.

The maddening irony was that I had a brochure for renters insurance—insurance that would have covered my belongings—sitting on my bedroom dresser. It had sat there for months, sent to me by my forward-thinking ERIE Agent after I moved into the apartment.

It was one of those expenses I knew I should take care of but thought I could put off for another day. Or week, or month, or year. Judging by the number of neighboring tenants who were uninsured, I was not alone in my ignorance—or my regret.

So now, I do my best to spread the word. If you rent, don’t hesitate to invest in renters insurance. It often costs as little as $100 a year, and the price may be discounted if you already have auto or life insurance through the same carrier. It not only protects your belongings against damage from fire and smoke, but also lightning, vandalism, theft, explosions, windstorms and more.

Talk to your ERIE Agent about the different options you have to tailor your renters insurance policy to your needs, before it’s too late.

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