Real Estate Home Insurance

Here’s What Renters Insurance Will Cover In the Event of a Tornado

Renters in a tornado-prone region might wonder, “Does renters insurance cover tornado damage?” In many cases, renters insurance policies will provide coverage for damaged belongings after a tornado.
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A close up of documents on insurance.


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What You Need to Know

  • Tornado damage is covered under most standard renters insurance policies, but the exact type and amount of coverage can vary.
  • Renters insurance for tornado damage typically includes personal property and loss of use coverage.
  • Tornado damage coverage often overage extends to belongings stored outside of a renter’s building such as bicycles, but it is not likely to cover vehicles. 
  • Renters who live in tornado-prone areas or are concerned that they do not have sufficient coverage may want to consider raising their policy limits or changing insurance providers. 

Q: I’ve just moved to an area that is prone to tornadoes, and I’m worried about what will happen to my apartment if a tornado hits. Does renters insurance cover tornado damage?

A: Just looking at pictures of tornado damage can cause renters in tornado-prone areas to reach for their phone to call their insurance company and ask, “Does renters insurance cover tornado damage?” A tornado can wipe out an entire building and everything in it, so it’s only natural that renters would wonder if they can insure their personal belongings in the event of such a disaster.

The good news is that renters insurance generally does cover tornado damage. There are some exceptions, but renters insurance will generally cover a tenant’s belongings up to the policy limits. Additionally, renters may often have access to loss of use coverage, which helps pay for additional living costs if the policyholder has to vacate their rental for a period of time while tornado damage is repaired.

Renters insurance typically covers tornado damage up to the tenant’s policy limits.

When a tornado siren blares, signaling a potential touchdown in the area, the last thing on a tenant’s mind is their renters insurance policy and what it covers. That’s why it’s a good idea for renters to check with their insurance company about their coverage terms before a tornado—or any other disaster—strikes. Although stand-alone tornado insurance does not exist, most renters insurance policies cover wind damage as part of their standard coverage, which includes damage from tornadoes. The amount of coverage included depends on the limits the renter chooses when they buy their policy.

It’s also worth noting that there are exceptions to insurance coverage for tornado damage. In general, it’s necessary for each unrelated tenant living in the same rental unit to obtain their own renters insurance policy. Families who share a rental would all be covered under one policy, although it’s a good idea to make sure the policy limits provide adequate coverage for the entire family. For example, if two unrelated roommates share an apartment, then each person would need to purchase their own insurance policy to protect their belongings from tornado damage.

Tenants who have purchased renters insurance for hurricane damage may know that these policies often include windstorm coverage as part of their standard terms. Tornado damage is also typically covered under a policy’s windstorm protection. Windstorm coverage generally includes the actual wind from a storm—such as the tornado itself—as well as additional damage related to strong storms. This additional damage might result from perils such as rain and hail, which commonly accompany a tornado. Protecting against tornado damage is just one of the many reasons tenants will want to strongly consider getting renters insurance.

For example, if the wind from a tornado rips the roof off a rental house, the furniture and everything inside could be ruined by the associated rain. The renter could then file a tornado insurance claim to replace their damaged belongings.

While renters insurance covers the policyholder’s personal property, it does not cover the building itself.

Renters insurance only protects the policyholder’s personal belongings. Any damage to the rental building itself isn’t covered by the tenant’s policy. However, that doesn’t mean the renter is on the hook to repair tornado damage to their apartment or rental home. Renters insurance doesn’t cover building damage after a tornado because this is considered the landlord’s responsibility, and the landlord’s insurance should cover any damage to the building itself.

After a tornado damages a renter’s building, their landlord would need to file an insurance claim to have any damage repaired. Although the renter wouldn’t incur any costs to repair the building, significant damage could mean they have to vacate the building while repairs are made, which could lead to temporarily increased costs of living. If this is a concern for renters, they may want to consider how much renters insurance they’ll need in the event a tornado leaves their rental property uninhabitable for an extended period of time.

A tornado in a field.

Policies with loss of use coverage can help pay for additional living expenses if the home is left uninhabitable after a tornado.

Many insurance policies offer an extra benefit to renters to help pay for additional living expenses if their rental unit is uninhabitable after a covered loss. Additional living expenses, or loss of use, coverage is a type of protection that helps pay for the added costs of living if a renter is forced to leave their home due to damage from a tornado or other covered peril.

Loss of use coverage is a big reason renters insurance is worth it to many people. For example, if a tornado causes significant damage to the structure of an apartment building, a tenant may need to move into an extended-stay hotel for several months while the damage is repaired. This leads to increased costs in housing, food, and other living expenses. If the renter’s insurance policy has loss of use coverage, then it can help pay for the additional costs of living for the renter’s temporary situation.

Renters insurance coverage can extend to belongings outside of the home—a bike chained to a building’s front gate, for instance.

Many renters have items they can’t keep within their rental unit, such as a bike they use for commuting or a cart they may use to pick up groceries. To save space, they may store these items in a common area or even outside the building—chained to the building’s fence, for instance, or placed within the building’s courtyard. The good news is tornado insurance coverage often extends to cover these items, so long as they’re kept on the property. It’s also worth remembering that a deductible would apply to these covered items as well as personal property kept inside the home.

In general, most insurance policies require the damaged property to be on the premises of the rental property to qualify for coverage. For example, camping equipment stored underneath the porch of a rental house would likely be covered if a tornado causes damage because it’s still located on the property. If the gear was in a storage unit at a different location, it’s possible it would still be covered, although items in a storage unit are typically covered up to a certain percentage of the policy limits. Renters are encouraged to double-check their policies to see where coverage applies so they can avoid having a claim denied.

Depending on their policy terms, renters may even be reimbursed for any food that spoils as a result of a tornado-caused power outage.

Some renters insurance policies include coverage for spoiled food or other perishable goods if the loss is caused by a covered power failure. However, many policies don’t include a power outage alone as a covered peril. Power outages can happen for many reasons, so insurance companies generally require there to be proof of physical damage to the home to cover spoiled food from a power outage.

For instance, if a tornado goes through a town and causes a large power outage, two renters in different buildings may file claims for spoiled food. However, Renter A can find no signs of physical damage to their apartment from the tornado, while Renter B documents significant damage to the side of their home. The renters insurance company would likely not cover Renter A’s claim of spoiled food in that scenario, but it may cover Renter B’s claim because their rental unit sustained physical damage.

A view of a tornado and home's roof.

Renters insurance will not cover cars or other vehicles damaged by a tornado, though.

Tenants with cars or motorcycles may want to note that renters insurance coverage does not extend to vehicles. Cars and other vehicles (such as an RV or large boat) generally require their own insurance coverage for tornado protection. Comprehensive coverage works as car insurance for tornado damage. This form of insurance protects a vehicle from most types of non-collision damage—fire, falling trees, or hail, for instance—as well as theft and vandalism, among other losses. Renters who want to be sure they are fully protected against tornado damage may want to check the terms of their auto insurance to be certain that their car will be covered in the event of a tornado.

In addition, flooding water resulting from a tornado or windstorm will not be covered without a separate endorsement for flood coverage.

Flooding water may not be associated with tornadoes to the same degree it is with hurricanes, but the same storms that lead to tornadoes can also produce heavy rainfall and, as a result, the threat of flooding. Renters insurance doesn’t cover flooding water, though. If a building is flooded during a tornado—as a result of heavy rainfall, for instance—renters insurance won’t pay to replace personal property damaged by flooding water. Renters living in an area that could potentially flood may want to consider purchasing flood insurance to complement their renters insurance.

Raising policy limits or switching providers can help renters get the right coverage to financially protect themselves in the event of a tornado.

Renters insurance is generally one of the most affordable types of insurance coverage available. However, the exact cost of renters insurance depends on a number of factors such as the amount of coverage the policyholder chooses, the rental property’s location, any endorsements selected, and the perceived risk of covered perils.

Renters may want to shop around to find the right amount of coverage at the right price. Insurance companies may offer different levels of protection against tornado damage, so it can be a good idea to compare multiple options. For example, not all policies include replacement cost coverage as part of their standard terms, so renters who want this protection may want to ask their insurance agent about what is and isn’t included in their policy. If their current insurance provider can’t meet their needs, tenants may want to consider looking at one of the best renters insurance companies (such as Lemonade, State Farm, or American Family Insurance) to see what coverage is available—for tornado damage and other perils. With the right coverage in place, renters won’t need to worry as much about paying for any potential damage to their personal property the next time a tornado warning is issued.