Renters liability insurance

But renters insurance also protects when you’re liable for harm experienced by other people, like guests, people around the home, or even people away from home.

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Zack SigelManaging EditorZack Sigel is a former managing editor at Policygenius who oversaw our mortgages, taxes, loans, banking, and investing verticals.

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If you have renters insurance coverage, your insurer will pay you to replace your belongings if they’re destroyed in a covered peril or stolen. You’ll also be covered if the peril was so bad that it forced you to relocate to temporary accommodations.

But renters insurance also protects when you’re liable for harm experienced by other people, like guests in your home, people around the home, or even people away from home. If someone in your home gets injured or otherwise suffers in some way for which you are liable, your renters insurance coverage has a provision that pays all or part of what you owe to the injured person. This is your renters liability insurance, and it has two components: personal liability coverage and medical payments to others coverage.

As with other coverages in renters insurance, the amount of liability protection you have is contingent on how much you purchase when you first take out the policy. That amount will be listed along with personal property coverage and loss-of-use coverage on the policy declarations page. The more protection you need, the higher your premiums will be.

However, liabilities can reach into the tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars, so make sure you purchase enough so you’re not stuck paying these expensive costs out of pocket. Once you’ve reached the maximum amount – the limit of liability, with “liability” meaning the insurer’s obligation to you – you’ll have to pay the rest.

Read on to learn more about renters liability insurance:

Personal liability coverage

Personal liability coverage pays for damages someone suffers for which you’re liable, even away from home. Damages doesn’t necessarily mean injuries; it comprises both bodily injury and property damage, similar to liability coverage under car insurance. When you’re liable to pay for these damages, the insurer will pay up to the maximum amount of coverage you purchased.

Additionally, the insurer will provide legal defense against the lawsuit, although it’s only obligated to fight for a settlement or judgment amount no greater than your renters insurance coverage. The insurer’s counsel will investigate the injured party’s claim at the insurer’s expense.

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Property damage liability is usually featured in a different section of your renters insurance policy than that of bodily injury. That section is called something like “damage to property of others” and includes the limit of liability (usually $500 or $1,000) for a single occurrence of damage. Some common exclusions to your renters liability insurance are:

  • The policy already covers the damage in another section or the damaged property is owned or rented by someone insured by the policy.

  • The damage was caused intentionally by someone insured by the policy, unless the insured is 13 years old or younger.

  • The damage arose out of a business pursuit, a motor vehicle (including watercraft and aircraft), or something you failed to mention about your home before purchasing the policy.

While most renters insurance policies largely have similar or even identical terms for liability coverage, Policygenius can work with you to find a policy that fits your particular needs, and it all starts with comparing renters insurance quotes online.

Medical payments to others coverage

Medical payments to others (MPTO) coverage reimburses you when someone suffers a bodily injury in your home and you have to pay his or her medical bills, including people employed by you in your home who aren’t insured by your policy.

This coverage also applies when the bodily injury is suffered away from the home, if your actions or those of your in-house employees or pets are responsible. If a condition on your home itself, like a structural collapse, injures somebody nearby, an MPTO payment may also be made to that person.

Whether an injury is eligible for reimbursement from MPTO coverage depends on if it’s consider a reasonable expense. Renters insurance companies usually list the following as reasonable medical expenses for this purpose:

  • Medical and dental services

  • Surgery

  • Ambulance, hospital, professional nursing services, including X-rays

  • Prosthetic devices, including oral devices

  • Aid devices, including glasses and hearing aids

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Funerals

You’ll only be responsible for such expenses after the injured party’s health insurance pays for its own obligations, so make sure you get the final bill before filing an MPTO claim. Most renters insurance policies also cover first aid expenses for other people, although not for anyone insured by the policy.

Additional coverages

Liability takes many forms. Beyond being liable for people getting hurt in your home, around your home, or away from your home, you’ll occasionally incur other expenses related to filing renters insurance claims for which the carrier may actually reimburse you.

Some of these additional coverages are:

  • The renters insurance company’s expenses. These may be costs you incur while the carrier is defending you in a lawsuit, including taxes.

  • Bonds. If you’re required to pay a bond premium resulting from a court case related to a covered liability, the insurer will pay it. It will not furnish the bond itself, however.

  • Expenses you incur due to the insurer’s actions. This usually applies when the insurer asks you to commit some of your time to assist in the investigation or defense of a claim. The payment will be between $100 and $250 per day, and such expenses include loss of earnings.

  • Interest that accrues on a court judgment. If you’re liable to pay damages, before the damages are actually paid the amount may accrue interest. If it does, the insurance company will pay the interest in addition to the judgment.