How Tenants Can Protect Their Belongings with Renters Insurance in San Francisco

Renters insurance is a must-have for tenants in San Francisco. It provides financial protection and peace of mind if insurable events leave you and your belongings vulnerable to loss.

January 9, 2023

4 min read


San Francisco’s renters make up about 65% of households—twice the national average. Renters insurance is a must-have for tenants in San Francisco. It provides financial protection and peace of mind if insurable events leave you and your belongings vulnerable. Whether you live alone or with roommates, renters insurance protects you against everything from vandalism, break-ins, theft, accidental fire, and more. 

What is renters insurance?

Renters insurance is a type of insurance that protects tenants from financial losses caused by damage or theft at a rental property. It covers personal possessions damaged due to fire and other disasters, along with liability protection for injuries sustained on the premises. Renters insurance can also provide coverage for additional living expenses if the tenant must temporarily relocate due to damage to the rental unit.

What renters insurance covers for tenants in San Francisco

Renters insurance typically covers tenants' personal liability, property, and additional living expenses in the event of a covered loss. Renters insurance policies can vary, so tenants in San Francisco need to review their policies carefully and understand what is and is not covered.

  • Personal possessions—This covers the cost to replace or repair the renter’s belongings, such as furniture, sporting goods, electronics, and clothing, if they are damaged or stolen. Renters insurance covers unexpected events like vandalism, theft, fire, plumbing failure, electrical issues, and storms up to the policy limits.
  • Personal liability—If a tenant is sued for accidentally damaging the rental property or if a lawsuit results from a guest being injured and accumulating medical bills, this covers court costs and a settlement. It also protects a guest’s personal property if it’s damaged while visiting. In these situations, renters insurance helps pay these expenses up to predetermined limits chosen by the renter. 
  • Additional living expenses—If the property is damaged and becomes uninhabitable, renters insurance helps with the costs of food and hotel bills incurred while the tenant relocates during the time it takes to complete the repairs.

Renters insurance covers most items a tenant owns but may not protect everything. Certain belongings, such as jewelry, art, high-end sports gear, or a rare coin collection, can have limited coverage under a standard renters insurance policy. You'll want to review the value of these items and add additional coverage to fully protect your belongings.

What additional coverage and protection options are available with renters insurance for tenants in San Francisco?

In addition to the standard coverage provided by renters insurance, tenants can purchase additional coverage for their policy.

Optional coverage for other insurable situations includes:

  • Identity fraud—This covers the cost and time it takes to restore a tenant's identity.
  • Replacement costs—This covers personal property damaged by a covered catastrophe. This is useful in an area with extreme weather events, such as earthquakes and floods, which are not often covered by renters insurance. 
  • Sewage or drain backup—This protects tenants from property damage due to water backup from a sump pump, sewer, or drain.

What renters insurance doesn’t cover for tenants in San Francisco

Renters insurance does not typically cover losses or damage from certain events or circumstances. 

Standard exclusions in renters insurance policies include:

  • Damage or theft of a roommate’s possessions—As a good roommate, you want to respect your roommate’s possessions and not damage or destroy them. Unfortunately, if you accidentally break your roommate’s possessions, they are not covered unless your roommate is listed on the policy or has their own renters insurance policy.
  • Damage or loss caused by normal wear and tear—If your personal belongings are damaged or destroyed due to normal wear and tear— the gradual deterioration of an item over time—your renters insurance policy will not cover the loss.
  • Damage or loss to the rental property—Renters insurance policies typically only cover damage to your personal belongings, not the rental property itself. If the rental unit is damaged or destroyed, it is the landlord's responsibility to repair or replace it.
  • Damage or loss caused by certain natural disasters—Renters insurance policies may not cover damage or loss caused by certain natural disasters, such as earthquakes or floods. You may need to purchase a separate policy or endorsement to cover these losses.

Is renters insurance required in San Francisco?

No law in San Francisco requires renters insurance, nor is it law elsewhere in the United States. However, as a condition of the rental agreement, many landlords in San Francisco require tenants to have renters insurance. If you are unsure if you're required to have renters insurance, review your rental agreement or check with your landlord or property management company. 

Even if it isn’t required, it’s still a good idea. In 2020, the San Francisco Police Department recorded 7,566 cases of burglary. Across California, there were 7,450 wildfires. These are just two of the risks that your renters insurance would cover.

What happens without renters insurance?

Without renters insurance, you will have to replace or repair your personal belongings out of pocket if they are destroyed, stolen, or damaged. If you are sued for accidentally injuring someone or damaging their property, you must pay for any legal fees and damages. And if you need to move out of your rental unit due to a covered loss, you will have to pay for temporary housing and other expenses.

Average cost of renters insurance in San Francisco

Renters insurance is quite affordable. The average cost of renters insurance in San Francisco is $10 to $80 a month. This is significantly cheaper than paying for damaged or lost items out of pocket. Coverage with a standard renters insurance policy is typically $20,000 in personal property and $100,000 in liability with a deductible of $500.

Why a landlord in San Francisco might require renters insurance

Landlords and property managers in San Francisco might require renters insurance to protect their property. Renters insurance gives landlords peace of mind knowing that their tenants are protected from potential damages or losses due to fire, theft, vandalism, and other disasters. Renters insurance also provides liability coverage if a tenant is found responsible for an accident on the rental property. In addition, after a disaster that makes the property uninhabitable, renters insurance can help cover any costs associated with relocation while the property is repaired.

How should landlords notify tenants about getting renters insurance?

Landlords should notify current tenants through written communication, such as an email or letter. This communication should explain the importance of renters insurance, outline the available coverage, and provide information on obtaining a policy and any available discounts. It’s in a landlord’s best interest to remind tenants that they are ultimately responsible for obtaining and maintaining adequate coverage.

Landlords should inform prospective tenants that renters insurance is required when they apply for a rental unit. In addition, landlords should include contact information for their preferred insurer in case tenants have questions about the process. 

Tips for landlords: How to help tenants make good decisions about protecting their belongings with renters insurance 

For many tenants, renters insurance is a new experience. Landlords can help their tenants make the right decisions about coverage by talking to them about the three issues below. 

Encourage your tenants to:

  • Consider additional coverage—Depending on the value of your tenant's belongings, you may want to suggest additional protection, such as flood or earthquake coverage.
  • Keep records—Ask your tenants to keep updated records of all items they own and their estimated value. This will make filing a claim much easier if they experience a covered loss event.
  • Check their coverage limits—Ask your tenant to ensure their policy’s coverage limits are enough to cover their belongings. If not, they should consider increasing the limits so they don't have to worry about paying out of pocket if something happens.

By following these tips and requiring renters insurance, landlords in San Francisco can rest easy knowing their tenants' belongings are protected.

Helpful links for renters and landlords in San Francisco:

Renters insurance in San Francisco is a wise investment for tenants as it provides financial protection from unexpected events such as theft, fire, and other disasters. It also covers personal property and liability, which can be invaluable if an accident occurs on the rental property. Plus, renters insurance provides peace of mind for tenants, as they know any losses will be covered in an emergency or disaster.

How to get renters insurance coverage quickly with RentSpree

RentSpree has partnered with Sure, a rental insurance provider, to bring landlords and tenants in San Francisco a streamlined process for buying renters insurance. Through the RentSpree platform, tenants can purchase coverage and provide proof of insurance to the landlord in one step. With RentSpree, landlords can quickly ask tenants to purchase renters insurance during the application process and receive digital proof of insurance after purchase. The easy-to-use tenant dashboard provides updated coverage information and renewal reminders. Get renters insurance through RentSpree today.


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