Tenant liability insurance, what it does and doesn't cover | Roost
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What does a landlord tenant liability insurance policy cover? 

A lot is going on when you move into a  new place. Phew! It can be a hectic time.  In the flurry, it’s easy to assume you have renters insurance through your landlord but you may only have tenant liability coverage.  Take a second look at your policy to be sure you are fully covered. 

What many people don’t know is that if you opt for a landlord offered ‘tenant insurance policy’ to satisfy your lease agreement, you may not be insured under a standard renters insurance policy at all.

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What is a tenant liability insurance policy?

A tenant liability insurance policy is a low-cost insurance option that some landlords offer instead of you going out and getting your own renter’s insurance policy.  These policies satisfy most minimum lease requirements for liability coverage, typically around $100,000, and only pays for damages to the landlord’s property.

A typical tenant insurance policy would cover damages from things such as:

  • Backup or overflow of drain or sewer
  • Water damage
  • Explosion, fire or, smoke damage
  • Falling objects
  • Riots
Roost Tip! These policies are NOT personal liability coverage or personal property coverage which is what true renters insurance is.  And that means that you are not protected from lawsuits or property loss.

What are the differences in coverage between tenant liability insurance and renters insurance policies?

The main difference between the two is that tenant liability only covers your landlord’s property and does not protect you from lawsuits or reimbursement for your stuff. Here are the main differences:

Coverage  Tenant Liability coversRenters insurance covers
Damage to landlord’s propertyYesYes
Liability from guests hurt in your homeNoYes
Damage you caused to other people’s personal propertyNoYes
Your stuffNoYes
Liability from other tenants from dog bitesNoYes
Alternative living expensesNoSometimes

Landlord tenant liability insurance | Am I covered?

We invented a little game called, “Am I covered?” to help you understand just what all that insurance gobbly gook even means by applying it to some real live, pretend situations. To play, just ‘pretend’ that you opted for the tenant insurance policy offered by your landlord and ask yourself, ‘Am I covered’?

Ready to play??

My ‘best friend’ is suing me!  (Dang!)

Last weekend you had a housewarming party at your fabulous new apartment.  Your best friend slips and hits his head because of water from a leaky pipe while using the bathroom.  A leak you noticed the other day but hadn’t reported it to your landlord yet.

Your ‘best friend’ ends up in the hospital with a concussion and a permanent scar.  In a dire turn of events, he decides that you are partly responsible because you had told him earlier that night about the leak and hadn’t gotten it fixed yet.  He decides to sue you, along with the landlord, for negligence. Yikes!

Am I covered?

The answer is NO!  You are not covered.  Your landlord’s insurance will cover him or her in the lawsuit, but you will not and could be considered liable for not getting the pipe fixed right away. 

What if I had renters insurance? Yes, you would have been covered under the liability section of your policy from a lawsuit.

I almost burned down my apartment! (Cringe!)

You decide to light some candles but forget to blow them out before you leave your apartment.  A fire started in the apartment, and luckily, someone spotted the smoke, but not before serious damage was done. 

Your bedroom area needs to be fixed, your TV and all your clothes were destroyed, and you had to live in a hotel for a week while your apartment was being repaired. 

Am I covered?

No, and Yes! Double points if you got both.

The damages to your bedroom will be covered under the policy that you signed through your landlord.  This is great because you would have had to pay for it yourself since your landlords’ insurance policies will not cover events that are your responsibility.

That’s awesome! But while you’re at it, you ask Mr. Claims Adjuster to reimburse you for your lost stuff and the hotel bill. Mr. Adjuster, unfortunately, has to deliver the bad news that your insurance policy did not have personal property or additional living expenses coverage. This means that you are out potentially 100s if not 1000s of dollars. Big oof!

What if I had renters insurance.  Yes, you would have been covered.

My landlord burnt down my apartment! (Yikes!)

A fire starts in your apartment due to some faulty wiring.  The faulty wiring is most definitely the landlord’s responsibility.  All of your stuff is destroyed, and you have to move because it will be months before the place is habitable again.

Am I covered?

This is an easy one, right?  Of course, I’m covered!!  Insert buzzer sound here with a big, resounding, NO! Wait, what? That’s right, only your landlord’s property is covered.  This means, once again, you are left out in the cold.  

Your next logical step is to approach your landlord and tell them that they are responsible for reimbursing you for your stuff, right?  Unfortunately, your landlord is going to point you to page 22, paragraph 3, section 4 of your lease and inform you that they are not responsible for reimbursing you for your personal property losses. Didn’t you read that part? Doh! 

What if I had renters insurance?  Yes, you would have been covered.

Game show blues

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t do great in our game show.  Most renters (heck, people) don’t understand this stuff. The main takeaway is your tenant’s insurance policy is not protecting you or your stuff in the event of a disaster. The worst part, for most renters, is that they thought they had renters insurance and were protected.

I’m listening!  How do I tell if I’m covered in these situations?

If you are reading your lease right now and trying to figure out what kind of policy you have, this is the type of language to be looking for:

“If no insurance is provided, residents may pay for a liability policy to satisfy their lease obligation and that this policy is not a personal liability policy or a renter’s insurance policy.”

If you thought you were protected under a renters insurance policy but are beginning to suspect you may not be, don’t wait!  Read your lease or ask your landlord to clarify exactly how much coverage you have. 

I have tenant’s liability insurance; what’s the big deal?

As long as you know what type of coverage you have and are comfortable with it, there is no big deal.  But if you thought you had full renters insurance coverage and are trying to decide to just stick with it or find your own insurance – here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

Tenant’s liability insurance only pros and cons

ProsCons
Less expensive than full renters insuranceDoesn’t reimburse you for the loss of all your stuff in a disaster situation
Protects you from costly damages to landlord’s property that you might have causedDoesn’t cover you if your animal bites a guest or other tenant
Satisfies your lease requirementsDoesn’t protect you from medical liability suits
Possibly costs less than full renters insuranceCan be more costly per month (but doesn’t have to be!)
Doesn’t cover living expenses while waiting for apartment repairs

What if I want to get my own renters insurance?

If you decide that your coverage is not enough and want to buy more insurance, shop around and compare. In most cases, your landlord will be thrilled that you want to step up your renters insurance game.  The more protection you have, the less conflict between you and your landlord if the worst should happen. 

Landlord-tenant liability/renter insurance FAQs:  questions:

1. I want to keep my tenant liability insurance for now, but how do I change it later? 

All you have to do is buy renters insurance and then provide your landlord with proof of insurance that meets your lease’s minimum coverage requirements.  Your landlord will be over the moon that you decided to buy more coverage.  The more you have protection, the less trouble between the two of you if disaster strikes.  

2. Should I get my own renters insurance policy? 

Generally, it’s a good idea unless your landlord is offering real renters insurance that covers your personal property too at less than $10 a month. Shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal for yourself that meets their minimum requirement.   

3. What is renters insurance, anyhow?

Renters insurance protects you and your belongings in the event of a disaster. It protects against lawsuits, big medical bills, reimburse you if your things are lost or stolen, and more.  Read here if you want to learn more.

4. Money’s tight. What can I do to save money on renters insurance?

From bundling to higher deductibles, there are lots of ways to save on renter’s insurance.  There are also companies like Lemonade that have policies that start as low as $5 a month!

5. Is it legal for my landlord to force me to buy renters insurance in the first place?

Quick answer, yes.  Landlords can include in your lease that you must agree to maintain renters insurance as a part of you living on their property.

6. I’m ready to buy some actual renters insurance. Can you just point me in the right direction?

Why, as a matter of fact, we can!  Here are a few of our top picks for renter insurance companies for renters, offering policies starting at $4-5 per month.  

Rent well and prosper!

Ultimately, what we hope you take away from this is that you understand what kind of insurance coverage you have.  If you are comfortable with tenant’s liability insurance coverage, fantastic!  If you thought you had full renters insurance coverage, and now realized you don’t, you have the information you need to fix it before disaster comes your way.  Rent well and prosper!

A quick note! Our goal is to gather and share info that’s up-to-date and helps you make great decisions as a renter. That said, the information you get directly from a provider could be a little different. Make sure to review their terms and conditions directly; and, if you see anything here that needs to be updated, please let us know! Advertising disclosure
Last Updated: May 29th, 2022