With apologies to the 1965 work of a similar name, we’ve noticed that there is a serious problem with high rise renters insurance coverage. The problem? The percentage of luxury apartment dwellers who have high rise renters insurance is, on a national basis, positively abysmal.
This, of course, begs the question why do I need renters insurance in a high rise building, which directly impacts the number of protected renters. Effective Coverage brings you the story of the risks you run going without high rise renters insurance, as well as the reasons people don’t have the coverage.
But I Don’t Need High Rise Renters Insurance Because…
This is a constant objection among those who live in luxury high rise apartments. It’s commonly believed that the presence of a doorman, sprinklers, and other safety features means that the risk is so far reduced that high rise renters insurance is not necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Admittedly, many of those safety and security features do have an impact on the types of risks you face. Theft from your locked apartment behind a doorman or secured entrance is less likely, for instance. But there’s an entirely new set of risks to consider.
Common life safety features such as sprinklers are designed for life safety, not property safety. They’re intended to give you a few extra seconds to get out, not to give you time to run around searching for the property you want to save. They also can cause significant additional damage to property, as can the water used to fight fires. You need those few extra seconds to get out because you’re now faced with running down forty flights of stairs rather than using the elevator. Take every extra second, leave your property behind, and let your high rise renters insurance take care of the property afterwards.
Those sprinklers can also be a significant risk to your property by virtue of their mere existence. In Charlotte, normally a warmer climate, Effective Coverage received three calls in one day to make claims for damage caused by sprinkler pipes which had frozen and burst. A further problem appears when repairs are being made to those pipes and the water to them is shut off.
Often those repairs are made with torches to join the pipes. Even in the hands of a trained professional, a plumbing torch can start a fire, and many happen that way every year. But if the torch starts a fire and the sprinklers are disabled, the fire has an additional opportunity to spread and consume, leaving you with even less time to get out.
I Don’t Need High Rise Renters Insurance Because These Buildings Don’t Burn…
Wrong! Recently, an 86 story building caught fire on the 45th floor, and the flames quickly consumed the building in its entirety.
Instagram user kdfitspiration said of the inferno,
It’s a very bad night for me, I have been evacuated from my apartment building. It’s on fire. #nowords I am safe, grabbed my phones and got out its after 2am. I am at a friends apartment now who lives down the street, hence the views of it going up in flames.
My apartment is on a much lower level – it’s 86 stories – I think fire is on 45 and up
Roughly the top half of the building went up in flames (video is available at link in caption). The tragically ironically named Torch Tower fire appears to have been accidental, based on local reports, but if you think your high rise apartment building can’t burn because it’s made of glass and steel, you might want to reconsider that world view. The contents and many building materials remain flammable, and the amount of synthetics in a structure like that lead to fast spreading, dangerous fires with toxic fumes. It may be built to the best standards available, but parts of the building are still inherently flammable.
In this particular high rise apartment fire, evacuations were conducted by building security in an orderly manner, successfully getting thousands of residents out of the building even though the fire broke out in the middle of the night. Clearly, the building management had strong contingency plans, because an orderly evacuation of a building on fire five hundred feet off the ground with flames up to 150 feet tall is certainly a tall order. The builders and managers of this property clearly were on the ball, but preventing a loss of life didn’t prevent a significant property loss. Most residents are out tens of thousands of dollars of personal property now, from a fire in a building that had been called impossible to burn. To our recollection, the least time someone built something and said that it couldn’t be destroyed, a small piece of ice was all it took to bring down the Titanic. This building fared little better, but its residents certainly fared better than the passengers of the unsinkable ship.
I Don’t Need High Rise Renters Insurance Because Building Codes Are Enough…
The above referenced skyscraper fire was, to all accounts, built to local standards and then some. One simply does not set a record by building the world’s tallest residential building under the watchful eye of onlookers worldwide while trying to skirt local codes and regulations. Further, when dealing with an 86 story building, some building codes simply can’t be broken. If the foundation depth is too short, for instance, the building would collapse before it was even completed, so you can be reasonably sure that part was done properly if the building is standing at all.
On the other hand, Avalon at Edgewater, which now lies in snow-covered ashes, was a four story luxury apartment building in Edgewater, NJ which caught fire as a result of a maintenance employee using a torch to repair plumbing inside a wall. Technically, the construction appears to have met all relevant standards and building codes. However, there was no code prohibiting housing several hundred people in a building made of wood, and no code prohibiting the use of wooden roof components which allowed the fire to further spread.
Building codes are a starting point for a bare acceptable minimum of safety. They do not anticipate every possible occurrence, they only endeavor to make most people safe most of the time. As you can see from these examples, luxury and high rise apartment fires are not uncommon. You need high rise renters insurance because tragic events do happen, and fires are one of the most dangerous occurrences in a high density residential situation.