10 Best Practices for Residents to Properly Inventory Possessions
Renters have a lot of stuff, but they seem to not know exactly how much for insurance purposes.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners notes that 59 percent of consumers have not made a list or inventory of their prized possessions and valuables. Of those who have done their preliminary paperwork, 48 percent have no receipts and 28 percent have no back-up copy of the inventory outside the home. Additionally, most don’t regularly update their inventories.
Many insured residents don’t document their belongings
That, says insurance providers, is a sobering indication of how unprepared people are when it comes to proving what they have in a claim resulting in a loss from fire, storms, accidents and disasters.
“The average resident never makes the effort to fully understand what they’ve got,” says Ed Wolff, President for LeasingDesk Insurance. “And, many times they don’t have enough coverage because they’ve never taken an inventory to understand what they have. They usually underestimate the cost in a loss.”
Obtaining renters insurance is only half the battle for apartment residents, Wolff says. The other is thoroughly documenting possessions and keeping the records in a safe place.
In a claim process, the insurance company will want to know beyond a general description what items have been lost. The claim representative is unlikely to accept and pay based on a claim of “everything in the living room” without some proof of the contents.
And, during a time of crisis, it’s extremely difficult for a resident to fully remember the various pieces and items that were lost in that living. Documenting via an inventory and keeping records like sales receipts and copies of important legal papers is the only way to prove to an insurance company the extent of the loss.
Making a list, checking it twice, even with an app
While creating an inventory sounds daunting, the process is easier than it looks. In many cases, the task can be done simply by walking through the apartment and making a list on a personal device or notepad. Some even recommend documenting online so the inventory can be accessed from anywhere.
A number of applications are available to inventory possessions. Included are options for descriptions, prices, warranty status, photographs and where they are located in the residence. Some are designed to inventory multiple properties. Many are compatible with iPhones and Android devices. Some can provide access via desktops and allow users to upload various file types.
The idea is to make a note of each item with a short description and a picture or two, Wolff says. Some items – like expensive jewelry or firearms – may require more detailed descriptions and additional coverage on the policy. An appraisal may be required to get adequate coverage.
Knowing the scope and value of possessions, Wolff says, will help renters insurance policyholders better determine the amount of coverage they need. Following are best practices for accounting for possessions and valuables, as provided by LeasingDesk:
1. Inventory personal property.
Walk through the apartment and make a list of valuable items, such as jewelry, art, collectibles, tablets, laptops, computers, televisions, and guns. An accurate value should be placed on each item. A checklist can be grouped by category, value, rooms in the home, etc.
2. Keep good records.
Anytime a new purchase is made, add to the inventory. And anytime an item wears out or is discarded, cross it off the list.
3. Itemize valuables and get appraisals.
Jewelry, art, and collectibles should be listed and described separately, and include appraisals.
4. Note make and model.
Include the manufacturer and model of big-ticket items like computers and televisions. Include the serial number if possible.
5. Take photographs or videos.
Pictures are worth more than a thousand words. Photographing and/or videoing possessions are especially helpful in assessing value during the claim process. Typically, such documentation can be done on a cell phone.
6. Save receipts.
It’s especially important to have receipts if the insurance policy covers replacement cost value.
7. Don’t forget the storage areas.
Items in out-of-the-way places like closets, attics and garages shouldn’t be forgotten. Make sure they are included on the inventory list.
8. Generalize clothing.
Unless the closet contains an expensive fur, most clothing can be listed by type and number (pants, shirts, shoes, etc.). Items don’t necessarily need to be individually documented.
9. Safely store inventory list.
Place the inventory in a fire-proof safe or protected area. Make a copy and store it in another location, even electronically so it can be accessed from anywhere.
10. Update, update, update.
Annually update the household inventory in addition to periodic updates when new items are purchased and others are discarded. It’s good to walk through the house again and account for new items that may not have been added throughout the year. Also, values change and should be so noted.
“Creating a physical inventory of your possessions is a good habit to get into,” Wolff said. “Keeping it updated and storing it in a safe place that can be easily accessed is the way to go.”
eRenterPlan and RenterProtection are offered by LeasingDesk Insurance Services, a licensed insurance agency operated by Multifamily Internet Ventures, LLC. CA Agency license # OD12126. This article is only a general description of policy coverage and not a statement of contract. Coverage is subject to the terms, provisions, exclusions, and conditions in the policy itself and in any endorsements.