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Renter Insurance is required in my lease. Is this legal?




QUESTION:


I am looking for a new apartment to rent. There was one rental unit in a modern community that is very attractive. However, when the rental agent showed me a copy of their rental agreement, I noticed it would require me to obtain renters insurance and name the property owner as one of the insured entities under the policy. Can they insist on this requirement as a condition of renting to me?

ANSWER:


California landlords have the right to require their tenants to obtain renters insurance as a condition of their rental relationship. The good news is that many of the protections offered by this insurance genuinely protect the tenant being insured. A tenant researching possible policies will see that many well-known insurance companies offer these policies. However, it is important to check the specific types of coverage being offered by the policy you are considering, because some policies may offer coverage that will be more useful for a tenant. These policies typically cover loss of the tenant’s personal property. Check which items of personal property are covered, for example unusually valuable jewelry or electronics. Check which events trigger coverage, for example, fire or flood or burglary. Check whether the cost of alternative housing after a disaster is included. Make sure your negligent acts as a tenant are covered, such as someone getting injured in your rental property due to your fault.


One common subject of dispute is responsibility for bed bug infestations. If a tenant brings the bed bugs into the property, the tenant is responsible for the cost, so check whether this condition is covered by the renter insurance policy. A landlord has a right to require that the policy name the landlord as an additional insured as a protection against being sued. A third party suffering an injury due to the tenant’s negligence will usually sue both tenant and landlord, to make sure a party with “big pockets” is included in the lawsuit. On the other hand, a landlord is not permitted to force a tenant to use renter insurance to substitute for a legal obligation that belongs to the landlord. The expenses resulting from any landlord failure to provide a habitable premises, such fully functioning utilities, cannot be shifted to the renter insurance even if the landlord is named as an “additional insured.” If a landlord needs to repair faulty plumbing, the tenant cannot be told to make an insurance claim for the repair cost. In the example of bedbugs, if the bed bugs are not due to the tenant’s fault, the landlord must bear the cost of eradication without forcing you to make a claim against the renter policy.

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