If the possessions in your self-storage unit were destroyed in a fire or other unexpected disaster, would you easily be able to replace them? If you have self-storage insurance, the recovery process may be eased, as this coverage is designed to pay for financial losses associated with stored items.

Just as your home could be targeted by thieves or ripped apart by a tornado, a self-storage facility can be burglarized, damaged or even destroyed. If such a catastrophe were to happen, your belongings might be lost.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that the storage facility’s insurance will cover your belongings if they’re stolen or damaged, said Tom Laden, program manager of StorageFirst, a business insurance program for storage facility operators. “The owner’s insurance has his name on it and it’s designed to protect him, not the tenant,” Laden said.

If you rent a self-storage unit and want to protect your property, you must buy an insurance policy of your own.

Protection for Self-Storage Renters

Frequently referred to as tenant insurance, self-storage insurance protects renters of self-storage units from financial losses resulting from such things as fires, storm damage, water leaks and burglary. You often can buy the insurance through a self-storage facility or from an independent insurer.

In some cases, your belongings may be covered under your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, said Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute. However, your home or renter’s insurance policy could exclude some hazards such as earthquakes and might limit the amount of coverage you for items stored outside your home.

Contact your insurance company or agent to find out exactly what your policy includes. If it’s not sufficient, a self-storage insurance policy could supplement your existing coverage.

Even if your home or renter’s insurance policy covers items stored in a self-storage facility, there’s another reason you might want to buy self-storage insurance, said Keith McConnell, vice president of business development at MiniCo Insurance Agency, a Phoenix company that sells self-storage tenant insurance. Home insurance policies typically come with deductibles, meaning homeowners first must reach a monetary threshold, like $500 or $1,000, before collecting money from a claim. Self-storage tenant insurance can be purchased without a deductible, McConnell said, so if consumers experience a loss, they can recover money for their damaged items without coughing up their own cash.

While you’re typically responsible for losses involving your property, some situations might arise when a facility’s insurance coverage covers your loss. If your property is stolen or damaged because of the negligence of the facility owner, the storage company’s insurance may cover the loss, Laden said. So, what if your belongings get wet because of a hole in the roof? If the hole resulted from the owner’s negligence in maintaining the property, the owner’s insurance policy might cover your property. However, if something happens that’s out of a facility owner’s control, such as a tornado ripping off the roof, you’d need to have your own insurance to cover the loss. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.

Finding the Right Policy

When you’re shopping for a self-storage insurance policy, ask which disasters are covered. While most will cover hazards such as burglary and fire, some policies may not cover things like rodent damage, McConnell said. You’ll also want to find out whether the insurance company will pay the actual cash value, or replacement cost, for lost or damaged items. You also can decide whether to pay a deductible, which may lower your premium (the amount you pay for the insurance).

The cost for self-storage insurance depends on the amount of coverage you need. Most people tend to buy the minimum coverage available from a facility-typically $2,500 to $2,500 worth of coverage, McConnell said. That amount of insurance likely will cost up to $10 a month.

The most important thing: Make sure the amount of coverage you buy matches the value of your belongings. After all, if your possessions are worth storing, they’re worth protecting.

Photo courtesy of Esurancely.com