Ricki Lake's Rental Home Burns to the Ground

How much will it cost to replace my belongings lost in a fire? That's what might have crossed Ricki Lake's mind right after "Thank God, we're alive." The Malibu rental home of the actress and former talk show host burned to a crisp this weekend after she was attempting to refuel a portable heater and accidentally set the couch on fire, says AOL's PopEater

Lake's publicist told PopEater that the fire, which began Saturday at approximately 7:25 a.m., "was very scary, but she and the boys are fine."

The mother of two made an effort to put the fire out but apparently some embers remained and the couch continued to ignite and eventually set the house ablaze, Lt. Rick Erickson of the L.A. County Sheriff's Dept., told the local ABC news station.

As RentedSpaces discusses in "Why You Need Renter's Insurance," fire risk is only one reason. But even if you have insurance, getting appropriately reimbursed for your insurables depends on the steps that you take before tragedy strikes.
If your items are destroyed, damaged or stolen, renter's insurance can help you get back on your feet quickly. It's important (even if you think your belongings aren't worth much) because replacement costs add up quickly -- from the food in your refrigerator to the clothes in your closet, and don't forget the cost to have debris hauled from the premises.

And no, getting the insurance isn't expensive. What you spend on eating out in one month, or spend on clothing purchases in a month, amounts to about what you'd spend on renter's insurance.

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About 43 percent of American tenants purchase insurance, according to the Insurance Research Council, but even a fewer percentage of young adults do. A 2009 survey commissioned by Allstate Insurance reveals that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of college-aged respondents had no insurance protection and 64 percent said it wasn't likely that they would purchase renter's insurance anytime soon. That's despite the fact that almost half (48 percent) reported having belongings worth more than $10,000 and 87 percent reported that they could only afford to replace, at best, some of their things.

Almost one-third of respondents (29 percent) reported spending $100 to $250 on clothes during any given month, and that amount is roughly what insurance costs for an entire year.

Once you have insurance, the best way to claim the maximum value is to have appropriate written and video documentation, as insurance companies are not likely to reimburse you for items that you cannot prove you owned. Here's how to do that:

1. Go room by room

Make a list of each item in one room you'd want to have replaced before walking on to the next room and doing the same thing. Open cabinet doors and closets so you don't forget anything, and remember the garage too. By listing the items room by room, you are more likely to cover everything.

2. Record serial numbers

Keep track of the serial numbers on electronic wares, as well as credit card numbers. Your wallet might just go up in flames, too, or be stolen in a burglary.

3. File receipts

For more expensive items, such as computers, furniture, small kitchen appliances or artwork, keep photocopies of the receipts. Don't rely on the originals, as due to the type of ink and paper used, many receipts will fade over a short period of time.

4. Take snapshots

Include close-up photographs, especially of unique items. Try to have the brand name visible in the picture.

5. Make a video

You can scan each room in your home with a video recorder, even the one available on your cell phone, and e-mail the video to yourself.

6. Keep duplicates outside the home

Aside from the copy of your documentation that you'll keep at home, it is important to keep another copy outside the home in, say, a safety deposit box, a drawer in your office desk, or at the home of a friend or relative. You also can scan all the paperwork and upload it to a site on the Internet.

It wouldn't do you much good if the only copy you had went up in flames with the rest of your belongings.

For more on property insurance and related topics see these AOL Real Estateguides:

More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
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Get property tax help from our experts.
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