Personal liability insurance for renters

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Rentals account for more than 35% of occupied housing units in the U.S., according to data from the Insurance Information Institute (III), which corresponds to a significant number of rental insurance policies. Most landlords require you to purchase renters insurance by the time your lease starts. Not only does it protect your belongings, it also offers a certain amount of financial protection in case someone is injured or has property damaged while in your home. 

Liability is included in most renters insurance plans, but there are some situations in which additional coverage could be an extra benefit. Here’s everything you need to know about personal liability coverage when renting a house or apartment.

Is personal liability insurance the same as renters insurance?

While there is some overlap between personal liability coverage and renters insurance, they are not the same thing. Personal liability coverage is typically included in both renters or homeowners insurance policy.

Your landlord has insurance on the actual building itself, so your renters insurance is meant to protect you and your belongings. The possessions you own within the property are covered in the event they’re stolen or damaged by certain disasters, such as a fire. Some natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, however, usually require a separate policy.

But your renters insurance does also include personal liability coverage, which protects you financially in case someone is injured in the home you’re renting. It also covers property damage that happens in or around your home.

Most basic renters insurance policies cover you for up to $100,000 in liability. You can then file a claim if someone gets hurt at your home and has outstanding medical expenses that you are liable for, or in the event a lawsuit ensues. However, the minimum amount may not be enough coverage. It’s worth exploring increasing personal liability insurance limits for renters.

What does personal liability insurance cover?

While visitors are in your home, you are legally responsible — to a certain extent — for their safety (and the safety of their property). Here are some common scenarios that extra liability insurance can protect you from in the event you’re sued or the visitor sustains injuries leading to heavy medical expenses.

Dog attack

A typical renters liability policy should cover standard dog bites up to the dollar limit of that plan. But you may be required to obtain a separate coverage if the breed of your dog is considered dangerous, like a pit bull.

Claims due to dog bites have been rising annually in the U.S., with the average pay out amounting to nearly $45,000 in 2019, according to the III. As the dog owner, your exact liability depends on your state’s laws. But if you have a dog of any kind, personal liability insurance can provide a financial safety net in the event of an incident.

Fall from slipping or tripping

You may also be held liable for medical or legal bills associated with a visitor sustaining injury from slipping and falling in or around your rental unit. Whether the cause is an icy sidewalk or a wet floor inside, additional personal liability insurance for renters typically covers most “slip and fall” incidents. 

However, it’s also helpful to revisit your lease and find out what areas you’re responsible for versus your landlord. For example, if your landlord is responsible for plowing snow from your driveway, you likely won’t be held liable for a delivery driver who slips while climbing back into the truck. 

Worker injuries

When a contractor comes to perform maintenance or repair in your apartment or home, you’re responsible for keeping them reasonably safe. Your renters insurance policy generally includes no-fault medical coverage up to a certain dollar amount. If you’re the one choosing the workers (rather than your landlord) you can also inquire about their workers compensation policy to see what liabilities are included. 

Trees

In addition to covering injuries, renters liability insurance also covers damaged property in some cases. Even if you don’t own the home but have trees in the yard, you may be held accountable if it falls on a car parked neary or a neighbor’s house. While it may not be your responsibility to fix a dead tree, for example, it is your responsibility to notify your landlord of the issue so it can be addressed. 

How much personal liability coverage do you need?

The value of personal liability included in your renters insurance policy is usually around $100,000 but you may get coverage up to $300,000, depending on your carrier. Once you know what’s included in your basic policy, you can determine if it’s worth purchasing additional personal liability coverage. A comprehensive amount would ensure your liability insurance covers the value of all of your assets

Even if you don’t own a home, consider other assets such as your car, personal savings, your retirement accounts, and any other valuable property. Tally up that total to give you an idea of how much coverage you may need to be fully protected. Account for additional coverages for special circumstances, such as being in a flood zone or owning a dog breed deemed aggressive.

An umbrella liability policy worth $1 million would only set you back between $150 and $300 per year on average. However, your underlying renters insurance policy may need to include a minimum liability amount in order to qualify for umbrella insurance.

The takeaway

  • Renters insurance includes some personal liability coverage.
  • You may need an extra policy to cover certain dog breeds or special circumstances.
  • Comprehensive liability coverage should cover the total value of your assets.
  • An umbrella liability policy offers additional financial protection.

Personal liability insurance for renters keeps you financially protected in the event of medical or legal expenses for injuries or property damages associated with a visit to your home. Rather than automatically assuming you’re fully covered by your renters insurance policy, dig a little deeper to understand the limitations of your coverage.

Assess your personal risk factors — like having a dog, yard, or expensive assets — to determine whether additional liability insurance makes sense for you. With many types of liability claims on the rise, it’s better to protect yourself from being at-risk.

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward is a writer for Coverage.com. She specializes in all things personal finance, including insurance, loans, and real estate.

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