While renters insurance is a requirement for an increasing number of rental policies and lease agreements, you might never think about it until you discover you need it.
Some renters insurance policies are surprisingly comprehensive, covering as much as any homeowners policy. Others may only cover the rental unit’s interior “to the outer walls.” However, one thing renters insurance may not cover is personal injury — either yours or that of your guests.
If a guest is injured by a fall in your unit, who is liable? What if they fall outside? How far does liability extend, and when is the landlord responsible for damages?
What Is Renters Insurance?
In the case of a fire or other disaster, the landlord’s insurance will cover damage to the property’s exterior. Renters insurance covers the personal property inside the rental unit, providing protection against theft, water damage, smoke, lightning, and other disasters.
For instance, if a unit catches fire and an adjacent unit is damaged by the firefighters’ water and foam, renters insurance is responsible for the adjacent unit’s damaged items, while the landlord’s property insurance is responsible for the burned and damaged walls.
Just like homeowners insurance, renters insurance is location-specific. In California, you have to get separate earthquake coverage. In the Midwest, you need separate flood insurance. In Texas and the Gulf states, you probably have to buy hurricane insurance. If any of these disasters is a concern, the extra cost is worth avoiding the loss.
Some advisors recommend obtaining replacement cost coverage if it’s available rather than cash value coverage. Replacement cost coverage replaces lost items with new, similar items, while cash value coverage only provides the depreciated value of the items at the time of loss. This is especially recommended if you have expensive or difficult-to-replace items.
Renters Liability Insurance
While renters insurance covers lost and damaged items, it may not cover injuries to guests that occur within your rented premises, such as burning a hand on your stove or falling down your stairs. For that, you need an additional type of insurance: renters liability insurance.
Standard renters insurance policies include “medical payments to others.” However, this seldom covers more than a brief trip to urgent care. It will also not protect you if your guest sues you over a serious injury. Renters liability insurance will cover the costs so that a lawsuit doesn’t take everything you own.
The one thing renters liability insurance does not cover is injuries to you, the renter. Your own medical insurance should cover you in the case of an injury or illness. If you are injured due to a hazard in your apartment or apartment complex, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the landlord or owner of the property.
Other Types of Liability Coverage
You can expand your insurance to cover a wide range of potential hazards, depending on how much you are willing to pay and the types of damages you are worried about incurring. For instance:
- Additional living expenses (ALE): If your apartment complex is damaged in a fire or other disaster, ALE coverage can help you with living expenses during its repair.
- Debris removal and interior repairs: You can get insurance to help with cleanup costs after a storm or disaster. This can also cover repairs that your landlord’s insurance might not cover, such as large pieces of furniture or fixtures the tenant installed.
- Unusual hazards: You can also add unusual hazards such as identity theft, food replacement, and other coverage to your policy.
When a Landlord Is Responsible
Regardless of whether or not you have renters insurance, your landlord is responsible for the exterior of your unit and any hazards that cause injuries in the common areas of the complex.
For example, the landlord is liable for slip and fall injuries on exterior walkways, stairs, and broken pavement, as well as for exposed tree roots and other trip hazards. They are also responsible for unlighted areas and security risks.
If an injury occurs outside your unit, your landlord is responsible for the personal injury claim. As the tenant, you must report the injury to the landlord or property manager so they can file the claim with their insurance company.
The Landlord’s Responsibility Inside an Apartment
Depending on the terms of your lease, you may not be allowed to correct some defects in your apartment. For instance, you may not be allowed to fix broken tiles or torn carpet, despite the trip hazard this poses to you and your guests. In a case like this, who is liable for an injury, you or your landlord?
If something like this happens, you should consult an attorney at once. The liability for the injury may depend on whether or not you informed the landlord about the hazard in a timely manner. Depending on the terms of your lease and the laws of your state, the landlord may have a duty to repair interior damage within a certain period of time or after written notice. An attorney can advise you about these requirements.
If the hazard in an apartment is due to the landlord’s negligence, then any injuries may not be your responsibility as a renter. However, before taking any action in this type of situation, you should contact a legal professional to determine the best way to proceed.
Who Needs Renters Insurance?
If a lease agreement does not require renters insurance, it may not be clear if it is necessary or not. The best way to determine if renters insurance is needed is to look around the apartment and estimate how much you could replace after a fire or other disaster. If you have expensive electronics or pricy collectibles, the cost of repairing and replacing your belongings may greatly exceed the cost of the insurance. In this case, insurance would be a smart choice.
For more information about renters insurance, hazards, and liability, contact Morris & Dewett Injury Lawyers by telephone or 24/7 live chat.