Is my landlord responsible for my stolen bike?

Written on August 15, 2018 by

When it comes to theft, it doesn’t matter if your bike is worth $100 or $1,000. If your bike gets stolen from your rental, your first reaction may be to blame the landlord. In most cases, however, the landlord isn’t liable, even if it was stolen from inside your apartment.

Your stuff, your responsibility (usually)

In most cases, you’re responsible for your personal property when it comes to your home.

This includes your bike, your computer, or anything else stolen during a break-in. The same also holds true for a bicycle kept outside, whether it’s on a patio or locked to an onsite bike rack.

Landlord responsibilities

In some cases, your landlord could be held responsible for a stolen bike if they didn’t provide sufficient security measures. It’s the landlord’s job to ensure basic safety measures to prevent criminal activity, but what that means, exactly, varies from region to region. Some cities may require that rental units have functioning deadbolts on doors and locks on ground-floor windows. Others may require ample lighting in common areas. Check your local and state laws to determine landlord responsibilities in your area.

Landlord ignores security issues

If you can prove your landlord ignored known security issues, such as broken window locks, you may have a case against them. Document all requests for security-related repairs or upgrades, as well as general repairs inside your rental unit, as they happen. These can help prove your case in the event of theft. Your landlord also must protect your belongings if a contractor works in your apartment while you’re away, for instance.

Don’t rush to sue

If the landlord failed to provide sufficient security or make security-based repairs in a timely fashion, you could sue for negligence. Before suing, however, make sure it’s worth your while. Legal costs could add up to more than your bike’s value in a hurry. Another option is to simply not renew your rental agreement.

Related: How to file a small claims lawsuit against your landlord or renter

The benefits of renters insurance

You can take an important step to protect your belongings—renters insurance. Renters insurance covers your bike and any other personal belongings stolen or damaged during a break-in. Better yet, it even covers your bike if it’s stolen off site, such as from your workplace. This insurance also covers items lost in a fire, for instance. It’s a great idea to purchase a policy, much as homeowners buy insurance to protect their personal property.

Related: The ultimate guide to renters insurance

Read the fine print first

As with other forms of insurance, renters insurance rates and the amounts of coverage vary from one policy or company to another. Some include limits on payouts per item stolen or damaged based on a percentage of total coverage. For instance, a policy from esurance pays full value of any item stolen or destroyed, as long as that single item is 10 percent or less of the total policy coverage. Some policies also don’t cover high-value items, typically worth thousands of dollars. Most insurance companies offer numerous package options, so it’s easy to pick a plan that meets your needs and budget.

Read your rental agreement

Read the original contract you signed when moving in, and find out exactly what you agreed to as far as security. For instance, if the agreement says buildings and common areas are secure, but several thefts happened recently, the landlord could be responsible. Some agreements explicitly state the landlord isn’t responsible for personal property, which means you should take steps to secure your own belongings.

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