Climate Hazard Exposure: Renters at Greatest Risk in California and Florida, Harvard Study Reveals

Concentration of Rental Units in High-Risk Areas Highlights Urgency for Renters to Secure Protection


A recent study conducted by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies underscores the disproportionate vulnerability of renters to climate hazards, with California and Florida emerging as the states with the highest concentration of at-risk rental units.

Analyzing data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Risk Index and the American Community Survey, researchers identified over 18 million rental units across the United States located in areas exposed to extreme weather hazards. This exposure is particularly pronounced in California and Florida, where a significant portion of rental units are situated in census tracts deemed to have at least a moderate risk of annual economic loss due to climate-related disasters.

Sophia Wedeen, a research analyst at the Joint Center for Housing Studies, emphasized the significance of the findings, highlighting the need for renters to be aware of the potential risks and take proactive measures to protect themselves.


In California, approximately 4.6 million rental units, comprising 77% of the state’s rental stock, are situated in high-risk areas vulnerable to climate-related hazards. Similarly, Florida faces significant exposure, with 2.4 million rental units, accounting for 89% of the state’s rental stock, located in at-risk census tracts.

As the frequency and severity of climate-related events continue to escalate, renters are urged to prioritize securing renters insurance to safeguard their personal belongings and mitigate potential financial losses. While landlords and building owners are responsible for repairing physical damage to the property caused by natural disasters, renters insurance is essential for protecting tenants’ personal possessions and providing coverage for temporary housing expenses in the event of displacement.

Experts advise renters to review their insurance policies carefully, ensuring adequate coverage for a range of potential hazards, including flooding or earthquakes. Additional riders or separate policies may be necessary to address specific risks not covered by standard renters insurance.

In an era marked by increasing climate uncertainty, renters must remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their homes and belongings against the growing threat of extreme weather events. By taking the necessary steps to secure comprehensive insurance coverage, renters can better protect themselves and their assets in the face of environmental risks.