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Editorial: Renters insurance small price to pay for security

6:36 PM, Jun. 4, 2013  |  Comments
Green Bay Metro firefighters battle a fire May 23 at Hilltop Place Apartments in Allouez. The 74-unit apartment complex was destroyed, leaving more than 100 people homeless.
Green Bay Metro firefighters battle a fire May 23 at Hilltop Place Apartments in Allouez. The 74-unit apartment complex was destroyed, leaving more than 100 people homeless.
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More than 100 people lost their homes May 23 in the fire at the Hilltop Place Apartments, 3415 Hilltop Way, in Allouez.

The 74-unit complex didn't have fire-resistant partitions in the attic and basement, making it more difficult to contain the fire. State regulations requiring attics to have compartments for areas larger than 3,200 square feet weren't in place until 1977 - three years after construction of the complex began.

And multifamily buildings with more than 20 units were not required to have a fire sprinkler system or a two-hour fire barrier between units until 1995.

The building was up to code.

But when moving into an apartment complex, ask when it was built, if it has sprinklers and fire walls. If it doesn't, you might want to seriously consider renters insurance.

Victims left homeless by an apartment fire are not to blame. But that's why we buy insurance - to protect us financially when tragedy strikes.

A survey commissioned this year by InsuranceQuotes.com found only 34 percent of American renters have renters insurance. Hillcrest residents said people living in only four of the 74 units had insurance.

For many, renters insurance is one more bill to pay on an already tight budget. And it may not seem worth it. It simply covers the cost of your belongings for damage like theft, smoke, vandalism and fire. Those events are rare, and often apartment dwellers don't feel that their property is worth a whole lot.

But renters insurance can be an economical way to protect your world from unseen disaster. Coverage can include liability, injury and some temporary living expenses.

And it might cost less than you would think. In a survey by the Insurance Information Institute, 60 percent of respondents guessed that renters insurance costs $250 a year; 21 percent guessed $1,000 or more.

But according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average policy costs $185 a year. And in many cases, packaging it with your car insurance brings a hefty discount.

In a Press-Gazette Media online poll last week, readers supported retrofitting older units to meet current regulations, but that could be cost-prohibitive for many property owners.

In older apartment complexes that aren't held to the same standards as more modern buildings, a reasonable backup plan may make the process of starting over at least a little less painful.

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