The 6 Most Important Clauses in a Landlord Insurance Policy

Written on November 13, 2013 by , updated on April 10, 2018

Landlord InsuranceNot all insurance policies are created equal.  In this article, I will discuss the key attributes of a quality Landlord Home Insurance Policy.

Standard property insurance policies assume that the homeowner lives in the property.

Landlords, on the other hand, rarely ever live in their rentals and therefore need a different type of policy – a Landlord Insurance Policy.

In fact, most landlords don’t realize that if they file an insurance claim on a rental, but the policy is NOT listed as a Landlord Policy, the insurer can deny the claim – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

If your home insurance is not recorded as a Landlord Policy, the insurer can deny the claim.

Did you catch that?  They don’t have to pay!

Why the Difference?

It’s simple really… because there are different risks involved with rentals vs. homeowner occupied properties.

Landlord policies account for typical issues that a landlord might have – such as “loss of rent”.

It also fits under a different pricing structure with the insurance company – and thus the main reason they want to know about your rental.

It’s Easy to Forget…

When people are forced to move, but don’t want to sell their house, the logical solution is to rent it out and become a landlord.

It’s easy to forget to tell your home insurance carrier that you’ve moved, after all, the property is still the same. It’s natural to ask yourself “Why does it matter who is living there if I still own it?”

The fact is, that in order for your existing home insurance policy to fully cover the property, you need to inform your insurance carrier that the property is being converted to a rental, and you are not occupying it as your primary residence.

Your insurance company will then label it as a “Landlord Policy”, and ask you a few questions about the amount of coverage that you might need.

Always Be Prepared

Always Be Prepared

Always Be Prepared

Being a landlord can be a great way to make a living, but it is so very important that you make sure you’re completely covered if something goes wrong – even if the chances are remote.

It’s essential to have the proper insurance policy in order to keep you from unnecessarily losing money or assets that may be impossible to recoup.

Listed below are the most important clauses that you need to consider when creating/converting your Landlord policy.

6 Critical Clauses in a Landlord Policy

1. Dwelling Coverage w/ “Guaranteed Replacement Cost”

Fire Damage

Fire Damage

Dwelling coverage is most basic type of home insurance, and if you don’t own your property outright, your lender will probably force you to have this type of coverage.

Dwelling coverage insures just that, the dwelling. It will protect you against financial costs related to structural damage of your property.

This typically covers structural issues, plumbing and gas systems, fixed appliances, cables and piping, internal fixtures and fittings, and outdoor items like exterior blinds and awnings.

However, you should also consider getting “Guaranteed Replacement Cost” coverage – which will pay to replace/rebuild the property, even if the cost of building materials exceed the amount you were originally insured for.

Dave Ramsey says:

“Several years ago, a lot of the major insurance companies quit offering guaranteed replacement cost insurance—a policy in which your home is replaced no matter what it costs.”

You just have to shop around. Without guaranteed replacement insurance, you will only be covered for the value of your home at the time you took out the policy – which doesn’t always cover the cost to replace it.

2. Water/Flood Coverage

Hurricane Katrina caused some of the worst flooding in US history.

Hurricane Katrina caused some of the worst flooding in US history.

Water and/or Flood Insurance is typically an extra policy which is added to your base policy.

It covers water damage to the building or anything inside is the property. Most basic dwelling policies will cover broken pipes or water heaters, but the extra flood policy is needed in order to cover floods, rains, sewer backups, water issues from natural disasters, etc.

Prices and rates are regulated by the U.S. Government’s National Flood Insurance Program, therefore the cost will be the same no matter who the insurer is.

It’s also a great policy to have if your tenant decides to put a hot tub in the living room.

3. Personal Property Protection (Contents)

Your furnishings need to be insured

Your furnishings need to be insured

Personal property coverage is essential if you’re renting a furnished apartment, but many landlords prefer to have it even if they rent empty units. Contents coverage typically protects you against damage to carpets, curtains, furniture, domestic appliances, household goods, and light fixtures.

While some landlords choose to have contents coverage, not all do. You’ll need to weigh the potential benefit of having the insurance against the monthly cost of the added coverage to know if it’s right for you.

4. Acts of Nature

Tornado Alley

Tornado Alley

Acts of nature include tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and even riots.

Although some types of insurance may not include all types of coverage – tornado insurance is not something you need in California, but it is absolutely necessary in Kansas.

In some cases, this clause is not included by default and you have to ask for it.

Again, you really have to weigh the pros and cons of each add-on, for example, hurricane insurance is so expensive in Florida, sometimes it’s cheaper to rebuild your house out of pocket than carry an hurricane insurance policy.

5. Fair Rental Income Protection       

roll of money

Your recurring rental income is one of your most valuable assets

Rental default insurance, sometimes known as loss of income, is a type of insurance that allows you to collect the rental amount of the property for a certain length of time if you are unable to do so because of repairs or a catastrophe.

However, most standard Landlord policies won’t cover the lost rent due to an eviction or dead-beat tenants.  The coverage works in conjunction with a damage claim that makes the property uninhabitable.

Allstate’s policy says:

If your rental property becomes uninhabitable due to a covered loss, Allstate Fair Rental Income Coverage can help pay you the rental income you would otherwise lose. In other words, if your tenants have to move out, Fair Rental Income could keep the rental income flowing in for up to 12 months, while the unit is being repaired or rebuilt.

Loss of income insurance might seem like a great deal at first, but it’s important to determine how much your premium will go up for this coverage, and that you weigh the benefits.

If you can self-insure, and can live without rental income for a month or two, paying for years of loss of income coverage may not be a wise financial decision.

6. Legal / Liability / Medical Coverage

Broken bones usually equal lawsuits

Broken bones usually equal lawsuits

If a tenant or employee – even a contractor working on a part-time basis – sues you for damages, legal and liability coverage can keep you from having to go out-of-pocket. This is generally coverage that every landlord should have, as it’s easy to build up huge legal fees or be forced to pay large settlements for things that are largely out of your control.

As with any policy, this coverage has its limits.  If you have multiple rental properties, then you might want to consider getting an Umbrella Policy to cover you and your personal assets if a liability claim goes beyond the limits of your landlord policy.

Most of the time, lenders will require that you have liability coverage, in order to protect their investment/loan.

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138 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jerred Morris

    The options listed above will effect the cost of your landlord policy. Which ones should be must haves and which ones are more dependent on the location of the property.

    For example: I wouldn’t buy flood insurance if I had a rental property on the side of a mountain or well above a flood plain.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hey Jerred,

      You are absolutely right. Every aspect of the policy effects the cost.

      It does seem silly to buy flood insurance if you live on a mountain side. On the east coast, even in the mountains, it’s not uncommon to get hurricanes which cause massive flooding and thus damage to basements. Also, many rentals are in major cities, and subject to the city’s sewer system. I know in Washington DC, the old parts of the city sewer back up every so often, and cause damage basements to flood.

      Every property is unique, but since flood insurance is regulated by the government, its going to be the same price with every carrier. I was surprised at how inexpensive it was too. Just my two cents :)

  • Brittany

    As a landlord I have been seeking advice about putting cameras up around my rental property. Now they apartment is on the same property as my actual home and I have been wanting to put caneras up around the property because I was just notified my tenant has a very long record of berglary. Do I have the right to put cameras up with out notifying the tenant?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Brittany,

      I can’t comment on the legality of it, since I’m not a lawyer, but I believe that you wouldn’t have to ask permission from your tenant as long as you’re not putting them inside his house.

      Most locations outside the house don’t have a “reasonable assumption of privacy”, so he can’t claim you are invading his privacy (unless the camera is pointed into his windows).

      If it were me, I wouldn’t think twice about putting up cameras if I was doing it to for general security and preventative measures. After all, it’s kind of a catch 22 if he claims that he doesn’t want additional security :)

  • Jan

    I own a home that I can no longer afford but it is paid off. I will be moving in with my mom and would like to rent out my home. Can I get landlord insurance if I don’t have a primary residence?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jan, yes, you can. You just need a mailing address.

      A landlord insurance policy is simply a regular home insurance policy except they know it is being rented out and it has some other clauses that are specific for a rental prop. If you already have home insurance on the property, just call them when your tenants move in and let them know of the change. The insurer will simply modify the policy.

  • Kate

    Is landlord insurance more expensive than homeowner’s insurance?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Kate,

      In many cases, it’s the same price. For many large insurance companies, like Allstate, they just change a few fields and clauses on your current policy and you’re all set.

      There’s only minor differences, albeit, they are important differences. Even if your landlord policy is more expensive, its’ worth it. It’s SOOOOO critical that your insurance knows that you are renting out the home – otherwise they can deny a claim.

  • diannawright

    Fell and hurt myself. Landlord is he responsible for my medical bills. I’m really hurt. Fell in front of duplex.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Diana. It’s not a simple yes or no answer. There are a lot of factors that go into determining if the landlord is liable. You should contact a lawyer to explain the situation in detail and he/she will decide if you have a case.

  • Judd Powell

    I have a landlord that wants to come into the house to change the water heater but the water heater is not broken does he want to enter the premises to be nosy or is there a clause in his policy that’s states he must without inspection

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Judd,

      Generally speaking, a landlord can enter the premise at any reasonable time as long as they give you proper notice. Whether he is changing a water heater, or simply inspecting the unit for safety, it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s a valid business reason, and it’s not so frequent that it’s disturbing your right to quiet enjoyment. Each state has different rules on the amount of notice that must be given. Check out http://www.landlordology.com/state-laws to learn more about your state’s requirements.

  • Ken

    Does a landlord policy usually cover damage done by a tenant? Does there need to be an additional clause to cover damaged caused by a tenant?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ken,

      Its my understanding that your landlord home insurance policy will cover damage done to the property structure – such as if the house burns down. If you’ve opted for personal property coverage, it will also cover damage to belongings and appliances by tenants. However, be cautious about filing a claim, and you should only do so if the damage is severe enough. If you file too many claims, you might find yourself uninsurable.

      I suggest calling your insurance company and inquiring about the fine print in your specific policy.

      A better idea is to increase the security deposit amount, which acts as a great buffer for having to file an insurance claim.

  • Jonathan

    Liability is mentioned but a reasonable value is not. What advice can you offer about choosing an amount of Liability insurance for a rented single family home. I have seen values from $100,000 to 1mil with costs ranging from $10 to $100.

    Thanks

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jonathan,

      Unless your insurance provider or mortgage company requires a specific amount of liability coverage, then it’s completely up to you.

      When I applied for an Umbrella policy to cover excess liability for all my properties and estate, my insurer required that all my rental properties have at least 300,000 in liability before they would issue me an umbrella policy.

      I think a better way to look at it is, what kind of liability are you trying to insure?

      Most of the time, it’s lawsuits and injuries. Physical injuries and medical expenses can easily go above $100,000, as well can lawsuits. Unless the cost for the insurance is so incredibly high, I suggest getting $300k in liability. And if it is too expensive, maybe you should look at getting a different provider. Also, you might want to check with your mortgage company to make sure they don’t require a specific amount.

      Cheers!

  • Nina Burke

    As a landlord of a two story building, is it common for a landlord policy to exclude plumbing backups? I do not have a rider on my policy and have learned a rider is not even available…. I worry about the possibility of a renter not taking caution of what they flush as I would in my own home? If there was a major problem would I as the owner be responsible for damages?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Nina,

      Yes, this is very common. The best thing to do would be to require your tenants to have “renter’s insurance”, which would cover any damage they cause through negligence or stupidity.

      Even if they didn’t have renter’s insurance, and you were left to foot 100% of the bill, you could still force the tenant to pay for the damage because of his/her negligence.

  • james

    I recently had to evict my tenants shortly after terminating my property management agreement. The tenants trashed the place. The insurance company has me filing separate claims (carpet, linoleum, appliances, etc.). To me it should be 1 claim with multiple items and 1 deductible, not several claims with each neededing to meet the deductible. Which way is correct or common?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi James,

      I would push back harder because this really should be a single claim (in my non-legal opinion). I can see why they would want to you to file separate claims, because then you have to pay out the deductible each time.

      If there was a fire in your house, you wouldn’t have to file a separate claim for each room that was damaged, or each piece of furniture that you lost. Your damaged was caused by a single event, and therefore I think it should be a single claim.

      If your insurance company continues to fight you on this, I suggest hire a lawyer and getting a legal opinion. Then, after you settle with this company, you should find a new insurance provider who doesn’t treat it’s customers like this.

  • Josh Clars

    I want to know which coverage will cover my restaurant if I’m renting it out and the plumbing got broken somehow? Do I need a rental policy or Is the landlord’s coverage the one that is gonna cover the plumbing?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Josh,

      You should probably talk to an insurance agent. Coverage for a restaurant would be a commercial policy, not a residential landlord’s policy. The rules are different.

      Generally speaking, no insurance covers plumbing. They only cover damage caused by the broken pipe, but not the pipe itself.

  • Patty

    I have the same question as Josh… if it is a commercial policy, who is going to pay for any issue with the plumbing, the owner or the restaurant’s renter?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Patty

      Generally speaking, no insurance covers plumbing. They only cover damage caused by the broken pipe, but not the pipe itself.

      Further, in a residential situation, if the pipe was damaged due to abuse, then the tenant should pay for it. If the damage was caused due to normal wear and tear, then the landlord should cover it.

  • Michael

    I have a situation where my renters passed away in the home. It was a murder suicide situation. They have a renters policy and I have a landlord policy. Can I file a claim on their renters policy for damages and reduced property value? I was planning on selling the home at the end of their lease. According to the laws in my state, I have to disclose that a murder took place which means I’m going to take a big hit on my property value.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Michael

      Im sorry about your situation. What a horrible incident.

      If were in your shoes, I would try their renters policy first. If my requuest got denied, I would then go to my insurer. However I dont think either will pay you for reduced property value.

  • Cl

    My insurance company insists that my 4 unit is covered at nearly 500k. I only owe the bank 75k why is it that they can tell me how much to insure for? I just want yo make sure bank is paid and expenses are cover and rebuild at slower cost if I want. Why I’d this frowned upon by the insurance co. They rate it’s so high I will not be able to stay in the black.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi CI

      Each insurance company has a calculation that they use to determine the cost to rebuild. I agree with you that many of the companies often inflate this number as to get higher premiums – but they will never admit to that.

      You can also use a recent appraisal or tax assessment to try and convince them that the value is less than what they are projecting.

      At the end of the day, if you don’t like their quote, you are free to take your business elsewhere. It’s a hassle, but it might save you hundreds of dollars a year.

  • Linda

    Hi
    I already have homeowners insurance on my house which is included in my mortgage with my taxes too. My question is I’m moving and going to rent out entire house to a family that’s going to buy it next year. Till then and before they move in ..what insurance changes will I need to do and how will it affect me cost wise.
    Thank you

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Linda,

      I suggest calling your insurance agent and be honest with him/her. It really shouldn’t affect your cost at all (except for normal annual increases). It’s just a matter of how the policy is classified – and adding in a few extra perks, like Fair Rental Income protection – which is a nice benefit.

      If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t change it over until the new renters are about to move-in.

  • Vicky

    I sold a house to one of my renters and she asked me to keep the insurance policy effective until she could get a policy of her own. Will my policy be effective even though I have already transferred the title?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Vicky,

      No, if the new owner is not listed on your insurance policy, i dont think she will have any right to make a claim. The insurance company has no obligation to pay someone whom they dont have a policy with.

      You are paying on a policy for a house you dont own, and the new owner can never use.

  • Hilary

    I’m thinking about renting my house but it is in a flood plain. It has flooded 2 times in 7 years. The water does not get in the dwelling only the crawl space so I never filed a claim. How would that work if I rented I know I would be responsible for clean up if it flooded but would I be responsible for any damage to the renters property that is damaged. ie. car or anything in the yard

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Hilary,

      Insurance companies are well aware of the flood plains and might force you to get flood insurance before offering you a policy. But it’s not something that should stop you from being a landlord.

      You and your main insurance company would be responsible for cleaning up and repairing any property damage from a flood, however, you would not be responsible for a tenant’s personal belongings.

      The best way to mitigate risk from this is to mandate that all your tenants get renter’s insurance before moving in. It’s really cheap ($120/year) and will cover all their personal belongings (including things in the yard, like toys and bikes), should anything ever happened.

      Their cars should be covered by their car insurance.

      The bottom line is that you should make it a lease requirement to have renter’s and car insurance, and then ask for proof of coverage once a year. You can make it a screening requirement so if they decline to get this coverage, then you could decline their application.

      • Hilary

        As far as I can tell renters insurance does not cover flood damage. They could get a special flood insurance policy on low risk homes but since my home is a high risk zone it is not an option per http://www.floodsmart.gov website. Flood insurance actually does not cover anything in the yard anyway. So if it flooded would I be liable to replace any damaged property outside of the home even though flood insurance wouldn’t cover it if I lived there?

  • Mary Middleton

    I have a single family home, in a nice neighborhood with an HOA. The management company put in a family that is really trashing the place, and insist that tires, debris, trash, etc, in the backyard is perfectly normal! After all, it’s behind a fence! They have violated many other terms of the lease, but for some reason, (likely to avoid admitting their own extremely poor judgement, lack of oversight, etc) the management company is championing them.
    They are also running a business. A landscape business, ironically. And using the address to advertise. I was told they could also do this. I signed a residential lease, not a business one. I doubt if my insurance will cover??? Help! I’m thousands of miles away!

  • Christine Bloxom

    I have a house my sister lives in and barely ever pays the mortgage…I just found out from a claim I made on the home that I have to change the insurance to rental property..the house I live in with my husband is not mine nor do I have a stake in the property upon his death..my insurance co is saying I have to have insurance with them on his house and my rental property is that true..Maryland is the state were in.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Christine,

      If I understand your question correctly, you’re asking “Am I required to have insurance on a house?”

      The answer is: It depends on your state (and even county) laws. Also, if you have a mortgage on the property, most mortgagors require insurance as part of the loan.

      Here’s some information for MD:
      http://www.mdinsurance.state.md.us/sa/jsp/Mia.jsp
      http://www.mdinsurance.state.md.us/sa/docs/documents/consumer/publicnew/homeownersinsguide.pdf

      • Christine Bloxom

        Actually I know I have to have insurance on the property. I was just wondering is it a state law in Maryland that as a Landlord to the property and living somewhere else am I required to have insurance on the property I live in and the property I own. My insurance company is saying I have to or they won’t insure the rental property.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Christine,

          That sounds like a internal rule with your insurance company. Most providers use the “primary residence” as the backbone for other policies on rental properties and other things. For example, with Allstate, I know I can’t buy an umbrella policy unless I also insure my primary home with them. You might want to shop around, and see who will insure your rental without also having your primary home insured with them too. I think Traveller’s will do it, maybe Allstate too.

  • robert blanstine

    i have an insurance policy that has only me as the named insured. I am only a tenant , but have invested tremendous amounts of money into improvements & betterment .Floors,bathrooms, ceilings, electrical,roof, etc. my intention was always to buy property, & verbally had mutual understanding of purchase agreement with landlord. Now there has been a fire, and I’ve worked everything out with the adjuster myself, and agreeable on numbers, but now the landlord wants my building claim check for repair of his building. I offered to buy him out with our agreed verbal number of 50K, for the deed transfer in my name. but he refused, and now is greedy hoping to get my $200,000 bldg claim instead. the insurance company has decided they want to pay the money to the landlord, because of a clause in my policy that talks about their right to pay for owners of property and this will satisfy obligation to me , the sole named insured. this isn’t where a deed holder should rely on protection.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Robert,

      To be honest, I’ve never seen this situation before. Is your policy a renter’s policy, or a primary property insurance policy? If it’s the primary insurance policy, how the heck were you allowed to put that in your name?

      If it’s a renter’s policy, then the fact that they are paying out tells me that they think you were liable for the fire. And, though you put improvements into the property, the property and the improvements belong to the landlord. That’s why I never recommend that a tenant spend a significant amount of money on improvements until the property is officially in his/her name.

      I think you should probably talk to an attorney who regularly deals with insurance companies. If the insurance company is taking advantage of you, then the attorney will be able to set them straight.

  • Don

    I rent out a single family house in Miami, FL.
    After 14 years of renting from me, my renters have just asked to see my insurance policy.
    They claim that they are trying to figure out if they need any of their own insurance.
    I have told them that my policy doesn’t cover any contents other than the appliances and that they should have renter’s insurance if they want their contents to be covered.
    Even after that, they still want to see the policy because they say they want to take it to their insurance agent to see what insurance they need to buy.
    Does this sound legit ? Am I required to provide the policy to them ? Any downside if I decide to give it to them.
    Any chance they might just want to see how much liability insurance I am carrying ?

    They’ve been trouble free tenants for the most part.

    Thank You.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Don,

      If I were you, I would not show them my master insurance policy. The entire reason that “renter’s insurance” exists is because a standard homeowner’s insurance policy doesn’t cover their personal belongings. Further, if your lease requires a renter’s policy, it shouldn’t be up for debate (assuming your lease does).

      All they have to do is call ANY insurance agent and ask about personal property coverage under a landlord’s policy. They’ll get the same answer – NO!

      I would definitely not show it to them. They may be trying to sue you, and want to file a claim on your policy. Scammers know how to do this, so don’t give them the opportunity.

      Besides, the amount of coverage they need depends on the amount of stuff they have. If they are asking about liability insurance. When my tenant asks, I usually recommend that they call their car insurance company and ask to get a renter’s policy for $300,000 public liability and $50,000 property damage. That’s just my recommendation.

      If there is a liability claim, then you’ll deal with it, but until then, I wouldn’t give them access to your policy.

      Also, here is another related article: http://www.landlordology.com/landlords-liability-for-personal-injuries-of-tenants/

  • Tom

    I was just notified that my big name insurance co is dropping my coverage on a 4-plex. (Last year someone died in an apartment, was not found for over a week, huge HAZMAT clean up costing thousands.)
    I am refinancing the apartment but must have insurance in order to do so. A broker shopped around and found no one that would cover the apartment. Then… another big name insurance co agent said he would. Said the prior HAZMAT did not show up. My current agent told me to be careful and that in time it would and that I would then be dropped by this 2nd co and back to square one. This 2nd co is also telling me Ill get better rates if I transfer my home and all autos over. Is this too good to be true? Is it possible that the tools the 2nd co uses for background checks on properties don’t see the HAZMAT incident? Desperate for coverage in order to push through this refinance. Any advice?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Tom,

      It’s common for big name insurance companies to give you an overall discount if you have multiple policies with them – especially your primary residence.

      They know that a customer typically sticks with whichever insurance company has their primary residence. Further, if they drop your 4-plex in a month, they will still have your business through the other policies.

      I’m not really sure what to say about the fact that no one wants to insure the 4-plex. If I were you, and I was in the middle of trying to get a refi, I’d take whatever insurance I could get. But I wouldn’t be so quick to move my other policies over until they proved their worthiness by not dropping my 4-plex. I’d probably wait a year or so.

      I’m surprised that NO ONE wants the policy. Usually, they will just quote you some very very very high premium, but they will still take it.

      Good luck to you!

  • L saleh

    If I have a property that is paid off in full and I am renting it out:
    1) do I have to have rental property insurance by law
    2) can I have the tenant sign a document stating that he/she acknowledges that there is no rental insurance on the property and that he/she will not for any reason file a claim against the landlord

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi L

      Property insurance is regulated by the Dept of Insurance for your state. I suggest checking with them. Just google “YOUR STATE department of insurance”.

      But generally speaking, having insurance on the property is usually a mortgage requirement – so that if the house burns down, the mortgage company still gets their money back. Many states allow insurance to be optional for paid-off properties.

      As one landlord to another, PLEASE get insurance on this property. Because it’s a rental, you want to make sure you have liability coverage (at a minimum). If the tenant slips down the stairs and breaks their back, you’ll need this insurance to cover the liability lawsuit.

      You certainly could have a tenant sign an acknowledgement of no insurance, and a waiver, but that doesn’t mean it will hold up in court. I’ve noticed that Judges don’t seem to like any lease clauses that force a tenant to waive his/her rights.

      Good luck with this property. I hope this helps. Please know that I am not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

  • JF

    Hello Mr. Hall,
    I would like to ask about an issue that all properties face at some point and that is appliance repair or replacement.
    My question are the following;
    1- What is a normal time frame for the repair or replacement of say a refrigerator?
    2- Can the tenant take the position that any time without full use of an appliance allows for some reimbursement and if so how would one price it?
    3- Say a refrigerator can not be repaired and a new one is order but it takes 2 weeks to get delivered. If the reason for it taking 2 weeks is the store and not the action of the property owner isn’t that reasonable?
    Thanks
    JF

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi JF

      Those are really great questions.

      1. Like most appliances, the life expectancy depends on the quality and use. A Sub-zero will generally last longer than a Kenmore, but if a tenant abuses it, then it’s lifespan might get cut in half. My general rule of thumb for fridges is 8-10 years under normal use.

      Here’s the data source that I look at most: http://www.nachi.org/life-expectancy.htm

      2. Generally speaking, no. A tenant can’t withhold rent for ANY malfunction. Things are going to break. It’s the tenant’s job to notify the landlord, and then the landlord must take reasonable action to fix or replace it (assuming the issue is severe enough). If the landlord fails to take reasonable action within a reasonable about of time, then the tenant can send a formal notice to the landlord saying, “if you don’t fix this, I’m going to withhold rent or terminate my lease for your violation”. Then, if the landlord doesn’t do anything, the tenant can withhold rent. However, keep in mind, it still doesn’t mean the tenant is correct. I’ve seen many landlords successfully evict a tenant who withheld rent for something silly (but they thought it was serious). Each state is different, so you should check our your state laws on this topic: http://www.landlordology.com/state-laws

      3. I think think a 2 week delivery time is a little extreme. Home Depot can have a fridge delivered within a day or two. It may not be the exact fridge you want, but you can get it. Personally, I think a week is totally acceptable, but 2 weeks is pushing it. Is there anything else you can do to speed up that delivery? Alternatively, could you provide a rental fridge in the mean time? Rent-a-Center will give you a nice fridge for about $30/week.

      I hope that helps. Please keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

  • JF

    Thanks, Mr. Hall for your insights on this common yet sticky issue regarding an appliance failure.
    Do you know of any accepted or reasonable guidelines for reimbursement to a tenant when the repair or delivery time is too long ( you suggested maybe 2 weeks is a stretch). I am assuming you thought about the time to get a repair company to look at the unit and decide if it can be repaired and if not then a new one has to be found, bought, and delivered/installed. All in 2 weeks.
    Say your tenant is left without a freezer for 3 weeks but has the refrigerator. Do you consider some reimbursement for loss of the freezer for say a week and if that is acceptable how much could that be? I doubt it is a pass for the tenant to go out to eat for 3 weeks ( the full length of time reporting the problem till the delivery of a new appliance)
    I am sure how things are handled or perceived to being handled makes all the difference and request from a tenant
    Many thanks in advance for your thoughts
    JF

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi JF

      The real key is to keep the tenant updated along the way. They can’t really complain if you are moving as fast as they would. I think 2 weeks is too long for a fridge because it’s a major appliance. But I can understand how it would take 2 weeks if you first try to fix it and then have to order a replacement. But like I said earlier, both Sears and best buy have next day delivery if you are really concerned about it.

      Without a fridge, it is difficult to make meals for more than a few days. However a freezer is not as critical (in my opinion). I wouldn’t feel bad about taking 2 weeks if they still had a working fridge but no freezer.

      I also “might” give them some compensation if they lost any food due to a freezer failure, but wouldn’t necessarily feel obligated too. That’s what renter’s insurance is for and generally speaking, the landlord is not responsible for the loss of the tenants personal property unless there was negligence.

      I’ve seen other landlords give a daily per diem to go out to eat once a day, but that’s a slippery slope, and only used when you could have shortened the wait by taking a different course of action (IMO).

      If you really did your best and responded in a timely fashion, and they still have a freezer, then I don’t think you have to be sorry for anything or compensate them at all. Appliances break all the time, and everyone suffers a little for it. If they push harder or threaten to sue you, then you might want to throw them a bone. Or if they’ve been great tenants and you want them to renew, you could always offer to pay for 50% of their damages. A good tenant is worth keeping.

      Anyway, those are my thoughts on it. I don’t know what is legally acceptable (not a lawyer) and it would be up to a local judge to decide and would depend on lots of factors.

      Good luck!

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