Renters insurance covers some common water damage-related scenarios a tenant might face, but who is responsible for what types of damage -– the renter or the property owner -- can be puzzling. Ceiling leaks, plumbing leaks or bathtub overflows might be unlikely, but they can be very costly and renters insurance is a relatively inexpensive way to mitigate these types of financial losses. The average annual premium for a renters insurance policy in the U.S. is $187.
If the ceiling is leaking, do I file a renters insurance claim?
No. A landlord or owner of a rental property is responsible for keeping it structurally sound and maintained, and that includes leaks. A renters insurance policy would cover a renters personal property in the event a leak damaged it. For example, if water leaked onto a leather couch or television and ruined it, that might be an expense worth considering making a claim for.
Under the terms of almost all rental agreements, as long as a renter notifies an owner of a structural issue as soon as they are aware of it, the renter will not be liable for damages caused by that issue. This includes a leak in the ceiling (assuming the leak was not caused by the renter). For example, if wind damages a roof and causes a leak, a renter would not be responsible for fixing the structure. The tenant wouldn't be able to file a renters insurance claim, regardless –- renters insurance policies do not cover the structure a renter lives in.
Does renters insurance cover plumbing leaks?
Yes. If the plumbing fails and water damages a renter’s personal property, they could file a renters insurance claim.
Assuming a tenant is not at fault for its failure, their renters insurance will not cover the cost to repair the plumbing itself -- that is the responsibility of the landlord or owner. Again, the only exception would be if a renter did not notify their landlord or owner of the issue in writing as soon as it occurred.
If the bathtub overflows, can I file a renters insurance claim?
Yes, if a bathtub (or sink) overflows and damages a rental property or a tenant's personal property, the tenant might consider filing a renters insurance claim.
Assuming a renter left the drain to a bathtub plugged and the water flowing, they would at fault for whatever damage the overflow might cause. For example, say a bathtub overflows and damages the wood floor that must be replaced. Depending on the amount of damaged caused, an owner might file a lawsuit against the tenant. In that scenario, a renter might have to file a renters insurance liability claim to cover legal costs and money they owe for the problems they caused to the property they rented.
Separately from the damage caused to the dwelling they are renting, a renter who causes a bathtub to overflow might also damage their own personal property. If the value of the belongings damaged surpasses the amount of their renters insurance deductible, they would be in a position to file a renters insurance claim. However, just because someone can file a claim doesn't mean that they should. Claims should be filed when the cost of the covered event (damages or a lawsuit) would create significant financial hardship. Renters insurance is a product designed to avoid that circumstance.
If a renter needs to file both a renters insurance liability claim and a renters insurance claim for their own personal property, they can do that. One does not preclude the other.
Does renters insurance cover water damage or leaks from a flood?
No. Renters insurance does not cover any damages to personal property cause by a flood and a landlord or owner is not responsible for those damages, either. Only a flood endorsement or a separate renters flood insurance policy will cover any losses sue to a flood. If a tenant is worried about flooding ruining their personal property, they should consider purchasing a flood endorsement or policy.