Can a Landlord Require Proof of Renter's Insurance?
Question: My landlord sent me a notice stating that when I sign my next lease renewal I must provide proof of renter's insurance and that I must have certain minimum limit on personal property ($20,000) and personal liability ($100,000). The landlord must also be named as secondary insured. Is this requirement legal? What implications does it have for me in the event of a claim or lawsuit?
Property manager Griswold replies:
The landlord can legally require you to provide proof of renter's insurance as a condition of your lease. Your landlord can also specify the minimum amount of coverage and require that the legal owner of the property and the property manager be named as an additional insured. Not all renter's insurance policies are the same, but most do not charge extra for providing the certificate of insurance with the additional insureds listed. Of course, you do not have to rent from this particular landlord and will likely have no trouble finding another property where the landlord is not so strict on this requirement.
While many landlords include provisions in their lease cautioning the tenant about some of the perils and risks associated with not having insurance, very few actually refuse to rent solely on this basis. You seem to be resistant to having renter's insurance, but I would encourage you to look at the benefits. For example, in the event of theft or damage to your personal property, or even a personal injury claim by one of your guests, your renter's insurance could provide coverage. I have also seen situations where a tenant accidentally started a fire in his unit and was held responsible for all of the damage to the building and the other tenant's property.
Landlords' attorney Smith replies:
I am not aware of any law that prohibits landlords from making it a requirement that their residential tenants acquire renter's insurance. However, it is rare to make the insurance mandatory in residential leasing. The problem is that it is difficult to enforce the insurance requirement and much administration is required to monitor the payment of premiums and claims. That's why most residential management companies include a lease clause that strongly advises that the tenant obtain renter's insurance and warns of the possible hazards and misfortunes that could occur while in possession of the rental.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies," and San Diego attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenant's Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords.