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Don't want to buy renters insurance? Too bad

Buy renters insurance?

You know that buying renters insurance is a smart move if you rent an apartment or home. Usually for less than $15 a month, you'll be protected in case you accidentally start a stove fire, or if a burglar steals your laptop, flat-screen TV and jewelry.

But what if you're stubborn and you'd rather not buy renters insurance? A 2015 insuranceQuotes study found that six of 10 renters skip it. If you're one of them, you might find it increasingly difficult to find an apartment or stay in the good graces of the owner or manager.

See also: Millennials lacks renters insurance and think it costs over $1,000

A growing number of landlords, especially ones that own larger buildings or a series of properties, now require tenants to buy renters insurance. If you refuse? That landlord won't rent you an apartment.

It's a trend that's only picking up speed, according to insurance and apartment professionals.

Why landlords want tenants to buy renters insurance

David Roberson is a good example. Principal of Silicon Valley Property Management Group in San Jose, California, Roberson owns apartments in three states and manages more than 100 rental properties. He requires that tenants take out renters insurance if they want to rent one of his units.

Roberson even offers a renters insurance policy through his company's website. He charges tenants $14.50 a month, or $174 a year for the policy.

"It provides peace of mind to the tenant, the owner and me," Roberson says. "If the tenant causes damage, say a kitchen fire or mechanical vehicle damage in a garage, there's a policy in place to remedy the damage."

And that's the key, says Nancy Germond, a risk-management consultant in Phoenix and owner of Insurancewriter.com. More owners are requiring their tenants to take out renters insurance because if they don't, they could face significant financial liability for the misdeeds of their renters.

Germond gives this example: Say a tenant leaves food cooking on his stove too long and starts a fire that damages both his and another renter's property. The tenant's renters insurance policy will cover the damages. The apartment owner won't have to cover the thousands of dollars in repairs.

"For less than a few dollars a day, sometimes less, an apartment dweller can have peace of mind for both liability to others and to cover items in the home for a variety of perils," Germond says.

Renters get an added cost, but not much

What does this mean for renters? A growing number of them might have to add renters insurance to their list of costs when renting an apartment.

Dan Laufer, the CEO of apartment search site RentLingo.com, says he expects more landlords and owners to require renters insurance. This has become the norm for corporate-owned apartments today, he says, while mom-and-pop owners still largely don't require renters insurance.

"Their reasons are pretty clear," Laufer says. "If you, say, accidentally flood your neighbor's apartment, they want to make sure there's a way for it to be covered."

Eric Narcisco, CEO of Albany, New York-based Effective Coverage, says landlords don't want to burden their tenants with extra fees. But the monthly cost of renters insurance is low enough so that it shouldn't put much of a strain on the budgets of renters.

"If it only costs renters $10 a month, that's appetizing to landlords," Narcisco says. "And it gives them the protection they want from their tenants' actions."

Renters have misconceptions about cost

The Insurance Information Institute reported in 2012 (the most recent year for which it has statistics) that the average renters insurance policy in the United States costs $187 a year.

A common reason that renters cite for not getting coverage is that it's too expensive. But a 2015 insuranceQuotes study found that more than 20% of respondents mistakenly believe that a renters policy costs $1,000 a year or more. Another misconception of renters is that their landlord's coverage will include them if disaster strikes.

See also: Bundling home and auto insurance could cut your costs by 25%

Tenants can pay for a variety of renters insurance policies. But landlords only care that they take out a policy that includes liability protection, Narcisco says. This is the part of the policy that covers damages that tenants cause to their units and others.

Most basic renters insurance policies, though, will also include coverage for personal belongings inside a renter's apartment that are either stolen or damaged, Narcisco says.

Renters 'feel they are invincible'

But even with the low cost and extensive coverage that come with policies, most renters still avoid renters insurance. Michael Barry, vice president of media relations with the Insurance Information Institute, says he expects this number to rise as more landlords require renters to take out insurance.

"There are no statistics on this, but we are always hearing about more landlords requiring renters insurance," Barry says. "Landlords want it to be perfectly clear that their own insurance doesn't cover the possessions of tenants. Requiring tenants to get their own insurance does get this message out there."

Maria Townsend, an insurance benefits specialist with Townsend Insurance in Greensboro, North Carolina, says it's no secret why so many renters avoid this insurance: They don't believe they'll ever need it.

"They feel they are invincible," Townsend says. "They're the ones who feel nothing can happen to them. But insurance is used to protect you for when misfortunes happen to us, and you never know when that will be.

A version of this story first appeared on TheStreet.com.

Dan Rafter contributed to this story.

See also: Home improvements that make your insurance rates rise

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