The newspaper often fields questions from renters about issues they are trying to work out with their landlord. That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to pass along some timely advice we received from the Minnesota Department of Commerce about something that can get confounding, especially during the winter season – renters insurance.

The commerce department is urging renters to understand what renters insurance does and doesn’t cover in the event of a winter home disaster.

The department offers the following scenario: Imagine that, while you are on vacation, you get a call from your landlord, alerting you that your pipes had frozen and burst, causing flooding in your living areas. You have renters insurance, so you should be covered, correct? Maybe not.

That is precisely what happened to A. Logan, who at the time, was a resident of Chaska, Minnesota.

“Being new to Minnesota after being a resident of California for 15 years, I wasn’t aware of how harsh the winters could really be. A cold snap moved in while I was on vacation, which caused my pipes to freeze and burst, which flooded my unit,” Logan told the commerce department. “I thought my renters insurance would cover the damage, but in fact, the insurance only covered my personal property. I was on the hook to pay for the rest.”

Steve Kelley, commerce commissioner, offers this advice:

What you should know

  1. If you live in a rented apartment or house, your landlord’s insurance will protect the building, but not your personal belongings. For example, if your rented property’s flooring is damaged due to a natural disaster like flooding, your landlord is responsible for tending to damage to the structure of the building, but is not responsible for the destruction of your personal belongings caused by flooding.

  2. Most renters insurance policies provide two basic types of coverage: personal property and liability. Personal property coverage pays to repair or replace personal belongings if they are damaged, destroyed or stolen. This is the most commonly purchased renters insurance coverage. Liability insurance provides coverage against a medical claim or lawsuit resulting from an incident on your rental unit.

  3. The premiums for renters insurance average between $15 and $30 per month depending on the location and size of your rental unit and the value of your possessions.

Know what you own

It is also important to have a current inventory of your personal possessions and their value, in case you do have to file a claim.

This can be as simple as taking photos or video, or making a list of possessions. It helps to include each item’s manufacturer, model or serial number, date of purchase and price. Make sure you keep the inventory list in a safe place. If you choose to file a claim, the more information you have about your possessions, the better.

Know what renters insurance doesn’t cover

While purchasing renters insurance helps protect your personal property, Minnesotans should note that it does not cover your belongings under certain circumstances such as natural disasters, property damage caused by pests, items of high value and other exceptions.

For example, renters insurance will generally not cover your neighbors’ property or belongings should they become damaged due to your own negligence, such as a flood caused by an overflowing toilet or a running faucet. Nor will it generally cover common areas (like party rooms, hallways, etc.) that may become damaged due to your own negligence.

It is recommended that Minnesotans connect with their insurance agent to determine exactly what will be protected under certain renters insurance policies.