Personal Liability Renters Insurance: What You Need to Know

The personal liability coverage in your renters policy pays for damage you cause to other people or their belongings.

The key takeaways

  • Renters liability insurance covers you in the event that you cause injury to another person through negligence or an accident.
  • If you are sued in a case involving accidents at home or dog bites, personal liability renters insurance could pay your legal costs.
  • Although personal liability insurance is not required by law for renters, your landlord may require renters’ insurance to sign your lease.

Although it is unlikely that anyone will ever be the subject of a lawsuit against them, it can happen and it could end up costing you dearly. You could end up owing thousands, if not hundreds, of dollars in legal fees and damages. Renters liability insurance is a good option if you don’t have the funds to pay that amount.

What is renters liability insurance?

Renters liability insurance covers you in the event that you cause injury to others or damage to their property.

Imagine that you are playing softball in your backyard behind your rental home and that your 12-year old daughter hits a homerun right through the neighbor’s window. If your neighbor sues, and you are found to be responsible, your liability coverage may pay for the repair of the window or treating injuries up to your coverage limit. You might also be paid for your legal fees.

Renters insurance policies often include personal liability coverage. These typically include:

  • Personal property coverage pays out in the event that your personal property is stolen or damaged by a natural disaster.
  • Additional living expenses coverage pays for your hotel bills and other expenses if you need to leave while your home is being repaired.

While you usually have to pay a deductible before your personal property coverage comes into effect, there’s generally no deductible on liability claims.

You may be able purchase liability coverage if you don’t want to buy a standard renters policy. For example, Assurant offers a liability-only policy to tenants living in the company’s partner properties across the U.S. It won’t cover your personal belongings as a renters policy would, but it will cover your liability if you cause a fire or other accident, or your dog bites a guest.

Do renters need to have liability insurance?

Unlike auto insurance, where minimum liability coverage is required in most states, renters insurance typically is not mandated by law. Your landlord may require renters insurance or a minimum amount personal liability insurance as a condition to your lease. The average cost of renters insurance is about $14 per month, according to NerdWallet’s most recent rate analysis.

These are the differences between a standard renters’ insurance policy and personal liability-only insurance.

Renters insurance coverage

Personal liability renters insurance covers other people and their possessions, not you and yours. If your dog bites another person, your liability insurance will probably cover their injuries. However, this is only if the breed of your insurer does not exclude it. You will need to have your own insurance if your dog bites you.

These are just a few of the scenarios that personal liability insurance can cover for renters.

Injuries and falls in your home. Example: A friend visiting you trips on an extension cord in your home, and he or she breaks his wrist. You are sued for medical costs.

You are responsible for any damage that occurs in your home or affects property of others. Example: Damage to the unit next door is caused by a grease fire in your kitchen.

You are responsible for any damage to property belonging to others. Example: A friend’s child accidentally breaks a vase that is worth thousands of dollars.

Hosts are responsible for any liability. Example: A guest at your party drinks too much and causes an accident on their way home. This could result in injuries to other passengers. (While your guest’s auto liability coverage might also kick in here, in some states the host who supplied the alcohol can be found liable for such an accident.)

What isn’t included in personal liability renters insurance

Renters liability coverage is like any other type insurance. These are some scenarios that renters liability insurance does not cover. You might be able to get insurance from another source.

Common areas are the most vulnerable to injuries. Example: A guest slips on icy sidewalk outside of your apartment building. Because the injury occurred in an area the landlord is responsible for maintaining, your landlord’s liability insurance would likely cover your medical expenses.

Car accidents. Example: If you are at fault for an accident that results in two people being injured in a car, then you will be responsible. The other parties’ medical bills and repair costs will be covered by your liability car insurance, not your renters policy.

Your belongings may be damaged. Example: A burglar breaks into your apartment, steals your TV, jewelry and laptop. This scenario falls under your renters policy’s personal property coverage, and not liability.

Liability for business. Example: Client sues you for a problem that arose from your home-based company. The typical renters policy covers personal liability claims only, and not business-related ones. You will need a commercial policy for this type of issue.

Intentional acts. Example: You intentionally throw a rock at someone and smash their window. This is a crime and not an accident. Your liability insurance won’t cover it.

What amount of renters liability insurance are you required?

Renters policies typically offer liability coverage limits that range from $100,000 to $500,000. If you’re not sure how much to choose, a good guideline is to add up your net worth, including the value of your car, bank accounts and retirement savings. You can reduce your chances of losing everything if you have enough liability insurance.

You might consider increasing your liability limit if your net worth is expected to rise in the near future. Renters insurance is usually so affordable that you may be surprised at how inexpensive it costs to add coverage.