Renters, get ready for an extra cost

HOUSTON It has been around for years, but many renters who once could choose the coverage or not are having the option taken away.

The insurance is billed as a bargain, and it can be very inexpensive. But now some complexes in Houston are making the policies a requirement for renters.

If you are moving into an apartment or about to renew a lease, you may be asked to pay the extra expense of renters insurance.

"Some owners are requiring renters to have insurance just like a rental car company or a mortgage company would require auto insurance or homeowners insurance," said Andy Teas with the Houston Apartment Association.

The renter insurance requirement is becoming more popular and the policies can be a condition of moving in or staying in an apartment. A renters insurance policy includes both property coverage and liability coverage and they cannot be separated. Legally, the complex managers can make renters take on a policy.

"Just like a mortgage company or rental car company, they are permitted to require that and certainly you do not have to lease at a property that requires that if you choose not to," said Teas.

The costs for the policies can be very reasonable. Renters insurance can be purchased for about $20 a month. But be warned. Your credit score plays a part in how much you will pay for a year-long policy.

"It could have a $300 spread, go from $200 to $500," said Josh Hargrave with Harco Insurance.

For those with bad credit, renters insurance can be close to $50 per month and for some renters, any extra costs can be tough to cover.

"If you are on a fixed income, the economy is bad, people are not working, so $20 is a lot right now," said renter Kimberly Ferguson.

Ferguson is not required to have renters insurance and like all renters, she cannot be forced to get it in the middle of a lease.

"Only when the lease comes up for renewal. They cannot change the rules in the middle of a lease term, but when the lease comes up for renewal, they can implement a policy," said Teas.

You can get renters insurance from just about any company. If you combine it with car insurance, you may get a discount. You can find out more about getting renters insurance on the Texas Department of Insurance web site.

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