We get all kinds of questions from property managers and residents, and this one will be relevant to both. A reader whose lease required Charlotte renters insurance asked us,
My lease requires renters insurance. They never asked me to prove I had renters insurance when we moved in. There was a fire due to the landlord’s negligence in leaving a kerosene heater in the basement to keep pipes from freezing. Since I didn’t have to prove I have renters insurance, what’s the best way to recover the cost of my property from the landlord?
The tenant should probably review our post on landlord responsibility for tenant property first. In short, the best way to recover the cost of your property is not from the landlord.
Let’s start with the negligence claim. The landlord was rather between a rock and a hard place, with the way this winter has been going. He could either let the pipes freeze or take the calculated risk of running the heater. Neither is a good option. Frozen pipes that burst run a significant risk of allowing water into electrical systems, which can cause fires. A kerosene heater can cause a fire, as well. In this situation, however, it’s doubtful that the landlord left the heater entirely unattended, as tenants live there. The landlord has a responsibility to provide heat and prevent frozen pipes, but the tenant has a responsibility to monitor their living situation.
Now let’s boil down what you’re really asking. In just a few words, your logic really is “They didn’t make me prove I had renters insurance, therefore I didn’t need to have renters insurance, therefore they’re responsible for my loss.”
Nope. No, nein, nyet. Your landlord doesn’t verify on a daily basis whether or not you run a business in your apartment. That doesn’t mean you can do it per the terms of your lease. Your contractual obligation under the lease requires you to maintain North Carolina renters insurance. Whether or not the landlord verifies the same does not release you from that obligation. Not making you prove you had renters insurance doesn’t mean you can just shift the responsibility onto someone else.
Generally speaking, the landlord is not responsible for any of your personal property no matter what the cause of the fire might have been. Most leases, in fact, don’t even contemplate your personal property. The renters insurance clause usually reads something like “Tenant shall at all times maintain personal liability insurance in an amount no less than $100,000.” You could just buy liability only renters insurance and technically be compliant, though that’s usually a terrible idea.
Why do we bring up the specific wording of the lease requirement? To make the point that the landlord is not often interested in whether you have personal property coverage, nor how much coverage you have for your items. They want to know that if you are responsible for damage from a fire, for example, that you can take care of the loss including the deductible.
The original question was rather longer, and in one of the redacted bits, the resident asked if he could sue his landlord for property damage from the fire because “I didn’t have to prove I had renters insurance.” While America is build around freedom and you can and may sue anyone for anything, this is not a case you’d win. Once again, a lack of supervision of your activities does not absolve you from your responsibilities.
Property managers no doubt are cringing at this story, and wondering how to prevent it. Effective Coverage offers solutions that not only allows tenants to purchase renters insurance quickly and easily, but sends immediate proof to the leasing office and tracks the status of that policy over the lifecycle of the tenant. Actively tracking every policy during the entire term of the tenancy is the only way to avoid horror stories like this one.
Whether you’re a tenant who needs coverage or a property manager who needs to enforce coverage requirements and make it easy for residents to buy their policies, Effective Coverage has answers for you. Call (800)892-4308 or click above for instant online renters insurance quotes.