15 Min to Read

Is My Landlord Responsible For Damage to My Property?

In an incident where there are damages to your possessions in your rental apartment or house, find out if your landlord is liable for the damages. Learn how you can protect yourself from a costly incident.
water leak home

If you live in a rental, you may not realize that should your belongings be damaged or stolen, not only is your landlord not necessarily liable, but you yourself may be on the hook.

Life is unpredictable, and all kinds of scenarios can occur unexpectedly.

Who is responsible and who should pay are necessary questions when there is any kind of incident pertaining to your rental home when it comes to injury, loss, or loss of use of the home.

If you don’t have renters insurance, any belongings damaged by a fire or any person who gets a serious injury in your apartment will be your responsibility.

This guide about renters insurance covers what renters insurance is, how to determine whether you need renters insurance, how much insurance coverage to buy, and how your landlord functions, above all, what your landlord is responsible for.

What Is and Is Not Covered by the Landlord?

First, who pays for what can be confusing because the answer may differ in several scenarios.

So, let's look at some common incidents in apartment housing where you can learn what the landlord may or may not be responsible for.

Apartment Fire

If your neighbor lights some candles and leaves them unattended, and if the candles end up causing a fire that destroys most or all of your rental unit building, who is responsible for coverage?

The landlord or owner is. The landlord has to hire contractors immediately to repair the building and clean the smoke damage.

Bathtub Overflow

So, if your upstairs neighbor leaves on the water to have a bath but then forgets to check the bathtub and water overflows and causes water damage to your ceiling, exactly whom is responsible?

Surprisingly, your landlord is not responsible for the ceiling even though it’s part of a structure that resembles something your landlord would cover.

And you are also not responsible for the damage.

In this case, it’s the neighbor who is responsible. If the neighbor has renters insurance, that policy will cover the cost of the ceiling.

Water Leak

Who is responsible when a water leak from a plumbing issue in your rental damages your neighbor’s ceiling?

It’s you and not the landlord. In fact, your landlord can hold you liable for the damages if you don’t pay to replace the ceiling and any related damages, such as drywall.

If you have insurance, it should cover your ceiling and will replace the cost of your possessions after the water damages them.

The landlord is not responsible for any damages to your possessions should they be damaged by fire, that bathtub overflow from your neighbor, a water leak through the walls or flooding during a storm.

Unless your landlord directly set fire to your possessions or intentionally flooded your things, holding your landlord liable in a court of law would be difficult.

Brittany Alexander, Esq.
Brittany Alexander, Esq.
Founder & CEO of Premier Property Law
If you rent in a flood-prone area, should you purchase flood insurance?
Renters in flood-prone areas should purchase flood insurance because typical policies do not cover flood damage—including your landlord’s home insurance.

Theft and Vandalism

If you are burglarized, the bad news is you may have lost things that are irreplaceable or had damage to your property.

The good news is that if you have renters insurance, you can file a claim to replace your items.

But who pays when a thief breaks into your rental by kicking your door open or shattering the glass of your windows?

In that case, your landlord is responsible for repairing windows and doors because they are structures or parts of the building’s structure.

Key Takeaway

  • It can be confusing to renters over what the landlord covers.
  • Water leaks coming from your unit are an example of what you pay.

What is Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance is akin to homeowners insurance, but it is for people who rent or lease properties, such as houses and apartments.

Renters insurance is much cheaper than homeowners insurance.

That’s because home insurance covers dwelling coverage, while renters insurance does not.

However, both homeowners insurance and renters insurance are essentially the same when it comes to their coverage.

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

The standard renters insurance policy covers liability, theft, medical treatment, and loss of use.

Liability Coverage

Liability protects you against lawsuits from someone who has bodily injuries or property damages that you or your family caused to them.

Liability also covers your legal defense.

For example, if someone visits your rental and gets bitten by your dog, your liability coverage will pay for the injuries.

If that person sues you, liability will also cover you.
Since lawsuits can cost a lot of money, liability coverage is worth every cent.

Loss of Use

This policy covers basic living expenses and temporary housing costs if you can’t live in your rental unit due to damage and destruction from fire, smoke, or heavy winds.

Medical Payments

This policy pays for medical care if there is bodily injury to a person that occurs in your rental unit, regardless of fault.

Personal Property Coverage

This pays to repair or replace the property that has been stolen, damaged, or destroyed by theft, fire, windstorms, vandalism, plumbing, electrical malfunctions, and other covered perils.

Also included are hail, explosions, riots, damage caused by aircraft or vehicles, and volcanoes.

What is the Difference Between a Landlord & Renters Insurance?

Purchasing renters insurance seems straightforward, but when you factor in your landlord, it can get confusing.

What does the landlord pay for?

Does the landlord cover your personal effects after a theft or a covered peril?

Renters insurance does not cover the structure, or dwelling, where the tenant lives.

If there is damage to the building, the landlord is responsible and would likely be covered through a landlord insurance plan.

Renters insurance covers more than rental units. The insurance covers a house you are leasing, a studio apartment, a condo, a townhouse, a single-family home, and other attached dwellings.

Say there’s water leaking on the ceiling from above.

Almost all of your property is soaked, such as big-ticket items like your smart TV, your couch, and your clothing.

You may want your landlord to pay for your damaged personal belongings,

That’s what most renters believe.

As mentioned earlier, unless the landlord acts as a direct assailant to your possessions, the landlord will never be responsible for replacing your personal possessions or chattel.

(Chattel is a legal term to describe non-real estate personal property.)

Key Takeaways

  • Landlords only cover the structure of your rental.
  • You are responsible for any damage you cause to the rental unit or building.
  • The property you own in your unit will not be covered by the landlord.
  • It’s you who is responsible for covering your own property.

What Does Your Landlord Pay or is Responsible For?

Your landlord is legally responsible for keeping your building in good condition. This includes maintaining common areas like stairwell steps, the lobby, and the elevator.

Here’s what a landlord is responsible for:

Complying with Local Building and Health Codes

Your landlord must keep your building up to certain standards.

And the landlord needs to make sure your unit is in good condition.

It should be free of mold.

And fire detectors, smoke detectors. and sprinkler systems must be functionally working.

Plumbing, Water, and Heat

It’s a right for you to have functional plumbing, and access to clean water, as well, as heat.

As soon as you have any problems with these three essentials, the landlord needs to fix them promptly.

So, if your heating breaks down or your pipe bursts, your landlord is responsible for repairing them.

Timely Repairs

If your condo needs repair, the landlord must fix any disorder as soon as possible, not weeks or even months later.

Pests

The landlord is responsible for keeping their apartment units free of pests. Bedbugs are not included because insurers believe they are due to negligence on your part.

Keeping Your Unit and Building Safe

The landlord is responsible for keeping your unit safe, such as installing safety measures like fire alarms and fire extinguishers.

The common areas should be safe too. Entryways, hallways, and elevators should be safe. One uncomplicated way to do this is to ensure lighting fixtures throughout all common areas are working properly and bright.

If the tenant can’t see, then that may lead to the tenant slipping on the floor and getting a serious knee injury.

In this case, it’s not the landlord who pays.

It’s the tenant’s renters insurance liability coverage that pays.

Key Takeaway

  • The landlord must comply with local building and health codes.
  • By law, the landlord must keep the building in good working order.
  • If your unit needs to be repaired, the landlord is responsible.
  • Surprisingly, if you are injured in your rental building, you, not the landlord, are responsible for any medical bills.

Do I Need Renters Insurance?

You don’t need renters insurance since it is not mandatory to have.

However, landlords may require you to have renters insurance as a condition of your lease.

Such as a clause in your lease.

If your landlord has mandated that you get renters coverage, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Get a quote for renters insurance.
  • Purchase a renters insurance policy.
  • Verify that your renters policy will be active for all the years you need it.

Why Do Some Landlords Require Renters Insurance?

For legal protection, a landlord will require you to have renters insurance.

For example, to avoid liability lawsuits, renters need to be covered.

If a guest is injured in your rental, renters insurance will protect the landlord from being sued.

Because the landlord only covers structural damage, if you destroy property in your rental, your renters insurance will help you pay for the costs to return the rental to its original, unvarnished state.

As it turns out, a landlord pays little for maintaining a property; however, the landlord’s insurance pays a lot if the building is destroyed due to a fire.

Your renters insurance ensures funds are available for the landlord if the unexpected occurs.

In fact, renters insurance benefits both you and the landlord because it can save you from paying the full costs resulting from certain covered losses.

Key Takeaways

  • Landlords may require renters insurance to protect themselves.
  • Renters insurance can protect the landlord from being sued.

How Much Renters Insurance Do I Need?

To determine how much coverage you should purchase, take stock of your belongings to decide on how much personal property coverage to buy.

If you want enough coverage for your personal belongings, renters insurance is a relatively affordable way to protect them.

That said, you should do an inventory of everything you own and you’ll likely find items you had passed over by mistake or had not considered.

This is called a home inventory.

What is a Home Inventory?

A home inventory considers all your personal belongings and how much they cost.

if you can’t remember how much you paid for an item, use a roundabout figure or turn to the internet to find a similar model.

After you finish your home inventory, the best approach is to buy enough coverage so that you can be fully reimbursed if you lost all your possessions due to a fire.

While renters insurance doesn’t require an itemization, a spreadsheet, or any worksheet, these things will be indispensable if you file a claim.

That’s because you’ll be better able to prove the value of your possessions.

And if you ever need to file a claim, your insurer will know exactly what needs to be replaced and your claims process will go more smoothly.

Key Takeaway

  • A home inventory is the best way to keep track of your property in the event you need to make a claim.
  • Doing a home inventory before any crisis happens means you don’t have to scramble to find all your items at the last minute. This can slow down the process when it comes to making a claim.

What Belongings Does Renters Insurance Cover?

One of the perks of renters insurance is that it covers all—or most of—your belongings. These include:

  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Electronics
  • Appliances and kitchen equipment
  • Bedding and towels
  • Most sports and hobby equipment, such as bicycles and musical instruments

However, renters insurance does not cover any fixtures of the rental unit that are permanently installed, such as built-in kitchen appliances.

Why Should You Purchase Renters Insurance?

There are three reasons why you should buy renters insurance.

These are:

  • Your landlord requires it.
  • You have a lot of personal property and own valuable and costly items.
  • You don't have separate liability or umbrella insurance that covers if someone is injured on your property or by a member of your household.

However, it’s essential to have a renters policy even if your landlord doesn’t require it.

If you didn’t have renters insurance and experienced a loss in your possessions, you would have to pay out-of-pocket to replace the loss.

Also, renters insurance is important to have as it protects the insured from liability claims.

This includes any injuries that happen in your rental that aren’t a result of structural problems in your building or even inside your rental.

Even if you don’t have that many belongings or don’t normally receive guests, renters insurance can be a necessity.

You will always have belongings to ensure that you didn’t think to ensure.

Just do the home inventory as we suggested, and you’ll come up with many items you neglected to cover.

Key Takeaway

  • You should buy renters insurance even if it’s not required.
  • If you don’t have renters insurance, the cost of protecting you can be exorbitantly high.
  • Renters insurance is the most affordable way to protect your belongings.

Do You Need Extra Coverage to Make Your Policy More Comprehensive?

Coverage limits, or the maximum amount your policy will pay for personal property losses, will apply if you make a claim.

Most renters policies only cover up to your plan’s limit, so if you have expensive jewelry or stereo equipment, you won’t be covered for the full value unless you purchase extra coverage.

Thus, you should schedule personal property.

Scheduling means you list your valuables separately on your policy and insure them for their actual value.

It’s a supplementary policy that you pay extra for to increase your personal property limit coverage.

When you schedule, renters are available to get full coverage of their expensive items, such as artwork or jewelry.

The benefit to scheduling expensive items is that you are covered for anything that could happen to them.

Are There Additional Coverages to Add to My Policy?

Here are three of the best coverages:

Sewage and Drain Backup Coverage

This coverage helps you repair water damage from overflowing drains and sewers, broken sump pumps, and damage that results from water moving from the ground up.

Identity Theft Protection

This add-on protects renters in the event of identity fraud and pays for the costs of restoring their identity and unauthorized credit card usage.

Personal Property Replacement Coverage

This endorsement allows you to increase your policy limits for your personal belongings and ensure that they are covered under replacement cost (RCV), which will pay for property damage due to a covered peril without depreciation.

What are the Two Types of Renters Insurance Policies?

There are two types of renters insurance policies, Actual Cash Value (ACV) and Replacement Cost Value (RCV)

ACV

If your belongings are stolen or destroyed, a standard renters policy pays to replace your belongings based on their actual cash value.

For example, if your six-year-old couch is damaged, your claim reimbursement would probably not allow you to buy a new one and you may have to shop for a second-hand or used couch.

RCV

But with RCV, you’ll get the cost of replacing your lost items with new ones.

Because RCV does not come standard in most renters insurance policies, you have to purchase it as an add-on at an additional expense.

Are There Discounts to Lower My Renters Policy?

Yes, and there are many. However, each insurer provides discounts to policyholders that vary in nature. Where you live and your rental record are just two factors that the insurer looks at when making discounts available.

The most common discounts include the following:

Multi-Policy

The multi-policy discount is the most common discount that insurers offer. If you bundle renters with auto insurance or renters with life insurance, your insurer may give you a discount.

Loyalty

You qualify for this discount when you’ve been with an insurer for at least 2 years. If you are loyal and spend more time with that insurer, you’ll get some sort of payout.

Claims-Free

If you haven’t made a claim for a long time, you’re eligible for a discount.

Auto-Pay

You get a discount when you pay your premium using automatic deductions that are linked to your bank account.

E-discount

When you sign up to receive policy information and bills electronically, you can also save.

Quote in Advance

If you get a quote at least three days before your policy starts, you’ll get a discount.

Pay in Full

You'll get a discount if you pay your policy upfront and in full.

Secured/Gated Community

You get a discount if your apartment, condo, townhouse, and more are behind secured gates.

What Doesn’t Renters Insurance Cover?

Most renters policies do not cover the following things:

  1. Backup of sewage.
  2. Earthquakes, floods, and other “acts of God.”
  3. Losses caused by the tenant’s own negligence or intentional acts.

It’s important to note that earthquakes and floods are never covered in a basic or standard renters policy.

If you need coverage for these natural disasters, you can, in most cases, purchase them as an add-on through your policy.

Is a Landlord Liable for an Injury to a Tenant or Visitor?

There are indeed situations where a landlord would be responsible for the injury of someone in the building.

You must prove that your landlord or property manager may have been negligent in maintaining the building and the common spaces for an injury to occur on the building’s property.

The following must be proven for a landlord to be held liable.

  • The landlord's responsibility was to maintain the premises that caused the accident.
  • If the injury was foreseeable. For example, if a renter falls on the outside steps because the cement was half-cracked and the landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident.
  • If the landlord fails to correct problems in the building due to negligence and was the reason why a tenant got into an accident.
  • A tenant sustains injuries that need urgent hospital care. For example, if the tenant falls and breaks his ankle due to walking up the stairwell steps to the tenant’s building, there are foundation issues on the steps.
  • The landlord failed to take reasonable measures to maintain the steps, especially if the landlord did not respond in a timely manner.

Key Takeaway

  • The landlord’s negligence is the reason why a person can have an injury.
  • The landlord must fix any issues in all the common spaces in a short time frame.

Does Renters Insurance Cover Theft?

Renters insurance may help to replace stolen items in your apartment after a thief breaks into the apartment.

If your items were stolen outside your building or anywhere outside, renters insurance will also cover your stolen property.

For example, if you left your laptop in your car and it gets stolen, your personal property coverage may help pay to replace it.

What If Your Landlord Refuses to Fix Damages They’re Legally Responsible for?

If the tenant sustains painful injuries on the property and is not making it up, the tenant is allowed to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the landlord to cover the tenant’s medical bills, lost earnings, physical pain, permanent disability, and emotional stress.

But before it gets out of hand, note that most landlords would never delay fixing a structural item. The landlord, in most cases, would take responsibility immediately and fix the item.

However, say your heat and water aren’t working, and it’s up to the landlord to fix them. The landlord never shows up, and you are left without daily essentials.

What are your options?

Renters have several rights that protect them. Here are some things you can do if the landlord fails to cooperate.

Communicate with the Landlord

Do this formally and be upfront about of what needs to be fixed. If the landlord will still not comply, keep a record of every conversation you have alongside the date and time so you can prove that the landlord is not cooperating.

Seek Legal Advice

If you don’t see any favorable results, you have the right to sue your landlord. Since hiring a lawyer can be expensive and hard, we suggest searching for someone local with experience in landlord-tenant matters.

Refuse to Pay Rent

If you don’t want to take legal action, experts say you may be able to withhold paying rent to get the landlord’s attention.

But before you turn off auto-pay, just check with a lawyer first to see if you can do this.

Key Takeaways

  • If the landlord fails to fix issues in the building that causes risk, the tenant has the right to sue the landlord.
  • But working it out with the landlord is more beneficial to both parties and means you don’t need to sue.

How Much Does Renters Insurance Cost?

The average cost of renters insurance is about $15 to $20 per month.

However, what you end up paying depends on several factors.

To estimate how much your renters insurance will cost, insurers use several factors to determine your rates, such as the state you live in and your credit score.

Some of the most common factors are:

Your Local Environment

You'll pay more if your area has high theft or plenty of natural disasters.

The Insurance You Have

No two renters insurance has the same rates. Each state and city will have different rates.

Coverage

The more coverage you'll need if you have a lot of personal belongings, whether they are cheap or highly expensive. You’ll pay a higher premium, but at least you’ll have coverage that is tailored to your needs.

ACV and RCV

Replacement cost will replace your damaged belongings with new ones. Meanwhile, the actual cash value will only give you the depreciated amount.

While RCV offers greater protection, it also comes at a high cost.

Deductible

If you have a low deductible, your rates will cost more. And your rates will go up each time you add more coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my landlord responsible for damage to my property?

If you don’t have renters insurance, any belongings damaged by a fire or any person who gets a serious injury in your apartment will be your responsibility.

What is the difference between a landlord & renters insurance?

Renters insurance does not cover the structure, or dwelling, where the tenant lives. If there is damage to the building, the landlord is responsible and would likely be covered through a landlord insurance plan. Renters insurance covers more than rental units. The insurance covers a house you are leasing, a studio apartment, a condo, a townhouse, a single-family home, and other attached dwellings.

What if your landlord refuses to fix damages they’re legally responsible for?

If the tenant sustains painful injuries on the property and is not making it up, the tenant is allowed to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the landlord to cover the tenant’s medical bills, lost earnings, physical pain, permanent disability, and emotional stress.

How much does renters insurance cost?

The average cost of renters insurance is about $15 to $20 per month.

Does renters insurance cover theft?

Renters insurance may help to replace stolen items in your apartment after a thief breaks into the apartment. If your items were stolen outside your building, or anywhere outside, renters insurance will also cover your stolen property.