MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
It’s a quiet Monday morning in beautiful Southern California. The sun has yet to rise and a blanket of fog calmly covers the windswept hills outside your home. You hear a familiar sound blaring from your phone, it’s the daily alarm set for 0500.
You reach over to your phone and hit snooze. “Just five more minutes,” you say while your eyes slowly shut again. After what seems like an hour passes by, you hear the alarm again. 0550. Your eyes now fully open in shock. “Oh no,” you think to yourself. You are now very late for work.
With a sudden jolt of newfound energy, you rush to the bathroom and attempt to conduct your typical 30 minute morning routine in a record-breaking five minutes. You stumble over to the dresser. “Where’s my other sock,” you howl, as you fumble in the darkness. You rush over to the microwave and toss in a pepperoni meal. You gather your thermos and backpack and bolt out the door.
After braving morning traffic you arrive at the office. Exasperated and out of breath, you made it with two minutes to spare. Your stomach rumbles, “Oh no,” you say under your breath, you totally forgot to snag the food from the microwave.
Ten minutes pass by and you get a frantic call from your wife. “The microwave is on fire!” You panic and immediately regret trying to cook that hasty breakfast. Several hours and gallons of water later, base firefighters extinguished the flames and your kitchen is now more akin to a smoldering campfire.
Thankfully no one was injured, but a large section of your kitchen’s drywall is charred to a crisp. You look over your current insurance policy, and it doesn’t cover accidental structural damage to your residence. You are now responsible for paying for all repairs. You think to yourself, “what do I do now?”
Renting a home is a huge milestone in life, but it also comes with many unfamiliar obstacles and responsibilities. To ensure military members are doing their best to protect themselves, their residence, and valuables against any unforeseen damages, renters are strongly encouraged to purchase a comprehensive renters insurance plan.
Prior to 2015, privatized military family housing was capped at the prevailing basic allowance for housing (BAH) rates established by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), enabling residents in PPV Housing to automatically receive renters insurance as a provision of their lease. On 1 January 2015, OSD eliminated the renters insurance component from the BAH rate calculation in an effort to slow the growth in compensation costs.
With privatized housing no longer providing personal property coverage, tenants both on and off base are now responsible for purchasing all renters insurance coverage, including loss or damage of their personal items and liability coverage.
“Renters insurance has more than one package option to choose from,” said Magali Onello, the housing applications section supervisor with the Family Housing Branch on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. “I recommend that every tenant [whether renting on or off base] conduct their due diligence based on their family needs. With that being said, renters insurance is one of the most inexpensive and understated policies that comes with great benefits.”
There are many options available when considering renters insurance. Although each insurance agency offers its own unique coverage plans, they primarily focuses on two central elements: liability coverage and personal property coverage.
Liability coverage helps protect your assets and future income. For this coverage, you’ll want to consider your net worth and the value of your assets, as well as your risk of being held liable for injury or damages. For example: you have a dog or live with roommates, or seek to insure against any structural damage to the property itself.
Personal property coverage helps protect your personal belongings (i.e. jewelry, electronics, military gear, etc.) The amount of coverage you need depends on how much your personal items are worth.
“Renters insurance is very similar to any other insurance,” said U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Shawn Doublet, the operations officer with Communication Strategy and Operations, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. “Plans are available so that if something takes a turn for the worse, you have the ability to file a claim and reclaim and/or fix your property. Renter’s insurance is important because when something does go wrong, you do not have to come out of pocket for the full price of your damaged belongings most of the time.”
Not having a comprehensive renters insurance plan that protects against both liability and personal property loss is risky and can cause a family avoidable financial hardship and debt.
“In the event of an incident, a tenant may not be financially protected,” said Onello. “They risk having to be financially responsible, not only for their own assets, but their landlord’s. Circumstances include but are not limited to theft, accidental floods or fires, etc.”
Not being fully insured can result in being held liable for covering repair costs to your domicile in the event of structural damage. This undue hardship can be prevented by conducting thorough research and choosing an insurer that offers a comprehensive coverage umbrella that best protects you and your assets.
“For more information about renters insurance, there are two available resources: Off-Base Referrals and the Housing Advocacy Department,” said Onello. “These departments have knowledge of all areas regarding property management and will be able to guide service members to trusted companies and local agents that can assist. These departments work as an intermediary to provide options to industry professionals that can allow the service member and their family to make a choice that best fits the needs of their family.”
Service members must always be ready to answer the nation's call in times of crisis. Unfortunately, a crisis can strike at home without warning. It is the responsibility of each individual resident to make informed decisions on all matters pertaining to their residences and understand the potential risks associated with electing not to have a comprehensive renter’s insurance plan, whether on or off base.