By Henry Hall, All Property Management

Losses from man-made and natural disasters in the U.S. during 2012 will exceed $140 billion. The most notable being Super Storm Sandy, which ruined thousands of New York and New Jersey rentals, both along the coast and inland.

Most landlords — with the aid of private and government insurance — will eventually recover. The prognosis for renters isn’t so good. And their financial wellbeing could have easily been protected.

Industry studies show that nearly 100% of rental property owners are insured. Yet only about 40% of tenants voluntarily purchase — or are required — to have renters policies.

“I know it’s a good idea,” said a professional property manager responsible for over 300 single-family rental homes. “When new tenants sign their lease, I suggest they get insurance because their personal belongings are not my responsibility,” she said. “But I don’t make it mandatory.”

Maybe she should. Increasing numbers of large property owners don’t give renters an option.

The average person renting a two-bed room apartment has over $20,000 in personal property. A renter may not think they have much: a few clothes, a sofa they got off Craig’s List, some dishes. But consider the replacement cost of an entire wardrobe, a smart phone, an iPad, a laptop computer, flat screen TV, X-Box game console, and even some old furniture. Moreover, what if the renter has a spouse and children? The costs could wipe them out.

Property managers and property owners have a stake in this too. A renter with a personal safety net is far more likely to maintain a lease agreement should he or she be victim of a fire, burglary or need temporary housing due to a disaster. Renters insurance covers these expenses. In some cases, for as little as $10 a month.

Owners with insured tenants also have higher operating income and tenant satisfaction. If a tenant with renters insurance causes, say, small damage to a unit, rather than getting in a dispute with the renter, or coming out of pocket to cover the cost of the repair, the landlord can be reimbursed by the tenant’s insurance.

Due to climate change, experts say things will get worse in 2013 and beyond. There are going to be more — and more excessive — heat waves, droughts, floods and hurricanes. “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America,” according to Munich RE, the worlds largest reinsurance company.

Protect your investments, whether you’re a renter or owner. If you’re a landlord, consider making renters insurance a requirement of occupancy. If you’re a tenant, call an insurance agent or go online and find a policy that meets your needs and your budget.