Does landlord insurance cover tenant damage?

Landlord insurance may cover unintentional damage caused by your tenants — like an accidental kitchen fire — but won’t cover intentional damage or wear and tear.

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By

Britta M. Moss

Britta M. Moss

Property & casualty claim consultant and expert witness

Britta M. Moss, CPCU, SCLA, AIC-M, has over 25 years of insurance industry experience. In her work as a property and casualty claim consultant, she provides consultation and expert witness services in claim handling standards, practices, and norms.  She has been retained by law firms representing plaintiffs and those representing insurer defendants involved in disputes or litigation regarding coverage analysis, investigation, liability determination, damage evaluation, negotiation and settlement.  She is a graduate of The Ohio State University. 

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If you rent out your residence on a full-time basis, you’ll need landlord insurance since homeowners insurance doesn’t cover non-owner occupied homes. Landlord insurance covers the structure of your rental property from damage caused by covered perils, including fire, a burst pipe, or bad weather. But when it comes to damage caused by your tenants, landlord insurance may be less likely to help cover the costs. 

Landlord insurance may cover unintentional damage caused by your tenants — including accidental fires — but if your tenant steals your property, vandalizes the interior, or simply causes damage from everyday use, landlord insurance likely won’t cover the cost of repairs. This is why many landlords require a security deposit and renters insurance.

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Key takeaways

  • Landlord insurance may cover certain types of unintentional damages caused by your tenants, including fire accidents.

  • A landlord policy won’t cover intentional tenant damage or regular wear and tear.

  • Most landlords require tenants to put down a security deposit — and sometimes require renters insurance — which will pay out if the tenant is personally liable for damages.

  • If a tenant has renters insurance and damages your home, their renters insurance liability coverage may reimburse you for the damage.

Does landlord insurance cover damage caused by tenants?

The only time landlord insurance will cover damage caused by tenants is if it was accidental.  

Here’s an example. 

Say a tenant accidentally starts a kitchen fire that damages your rental property. Landlord insurance may help pay for repairs — as well as cover the cost of lost rental income while the home is being rebuilt.

When doesn’t landlord insurance cover tenant damage?

Landlord insurance is designed to cover your rental property from covered perils, like bad weather or accidental and sudden water damage, like a burst pipe. It’s typically on you as a landlord to write a lease agreement and make sure the tenant upholds the contract requirements.

Below are a few examples of tenant damage that would not be covered by landlord insurance.

  • Intentional damage. Landlord insurance won’t cover any damage that is intentionally caused by your tenants. That means if a tenant puts a hole through your wall, steals your fixtures, or spray-paints the walls, landlord insurance likely won’t pay out for repairs. (That doesn’t mean you are without recourse, though; you can keep their security deposit or file a civil suit.)

  • Wear and tear. Landlord insurance won’t pay to repair things like broken furniture and stained carpets. You can likely take this out of your tenant’s security deposit, though. 

  • Maintenance issues. Landlord insurance doesn’t cover the cost of maintenance issues, so if your tenants bring bed bugs into your home, you’d be on the hook for paying for pest removal. 

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What does landlord insurance cover?

Just like a standard homeowners policy, landlord policies consist of different types of coverage:

  • Dwelling coverage. Covers the structure of your residence if damaged by a covered peril, like fire, windstorm, or hurricanes

  • Other structures coverage. Protects detached structures on your property, like garages and sheds

  • Personal property coverage. Protects your personal property that you leave on-site for the use of tenants (but not property owned by your tenants). This is typically only property that is used to maintain the rental, like a lawn mower

  • Personal liability coverage. Provides medical payments if a tenant or guest is hurt on your property. Also covers legal fees if a tenant files a lawsuit against you for property damage or bodily injury 

  • Loss of rental income. Covers loss of rental income if tenants must vacate after a covered event

Does landlord insurance cover damage to tenant property?

Landlord insurance policies do not provide coverage for any of a tenant’s personal belongings, no matter how the property was destroyed or damaged.

However, if the tenant sues you for damage to their personal property, the liability portion of your landlord policy would pay your legal fees and any settlements if you were found to be at fault. Such a suit would have to prove negligence on your part — for example, a fire was caused by bad wiring that you knew was bad and didn’t fix on purpose.

This is one reason why many landlords require tenants to have renters insurance and even write it into their tenancy agreement or lease. Renters insurance would pay to replace the tenants' damaged belongings.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does landlord insurance cover water damage?

Landlord insurance may cover water damage if it was sudden and accidental — like a burst pipe. Keep in mind that landlord insurance never covers flood damage, so if a hurricane floods your home your landlord insurance won’t cover you. You’ll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy to protect your home from flood damage.

Does renters insurance cover tenant damage?

Renters insurance covers tenants' personal property. That means if you’re a renter and your stuff gets damaged by a covered loss, like a fire, you can file a claim with your renters insurance company. If you damage your rental property, the liability coverage portion of your renters insurance may cover you if you’re found legally responsible for the damage. That said, a landlord may simply take the cost of repairs out of your deposit at the end of your lease.

Authors

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

Expert reviewer

Property & casualty claim consultant and expert witness

Britta M. Moss

Property & casualty claim consultant and expert witness

gray linkedin icon link

Britta M. Moss, CPCU, SCLA, AIC-M, has over 25 years of insurance industry experience. In her work as a property and casualty claim consultant, she provides consultation and expert witness services in claim handling standards, practices, and norms.  She has been retained by law firms representing plaintiffs and those representing insurer defendants involved in disputes or litigation regarding coverage analysis, investigation, liability determination, damage evaluation, negotiation and settlement.  She is a graduate of The Ohio State University. 

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