Landlord insurance policies provide similar coverage to that offered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, such as dwelling coverage to protect your property in the event of a fire. However, a landlord policy is written to specifically protect against risks landlords are prone to face, such as increased injury liability and the loss of rental income. Because of these additional coverages, and since rental properties are riskier to insure in general, landlord insurance policies typically cost as much as 25% more than their homeowners insurance counterparts. Landlord coverage is also important since, if your rental home is damaged, you may be denied coverage if you have only a standard homeowners insurance policy.
What Insurance Do You Need as a Landlord?
The type of insurance policy you require depends on your insurance provider and the length and frequency with which you rent out your property. Here are three common situations:
- The long-term renter: Homeowners who plan to rent out a house or apartment to specific tenants for at least six months will need to purchase landlord insurance, also called a "rental dwelling policy." Landlord insurance contains similar coverage to a traditional homeowners insurance policy, but it is tailored to protect landlords from losses related to leasing out their property. However, according to the Insurance Information Institute, landlord insurance costs about 25% more than traditional homeowners insurance policies.
- The occasional short-term renter: Homeowners who rent out their primary residence only occasionally for short periods of time may be protected by their existing homeowners insurance policy. However, they must notify their insurance company and confirm that coverage. Some insurance companies will require that an additional rider be added to the policy in order to provide coverage when your home is rented out, but coverage would still fall under your homeowners insurance policy.
- The frequent short-term renter: Property owners who plan to rent out their primary residence regularly for short-term periods (such as an Airbnb host) are usually considered business owners by their insurer. Therefore, these property owners are not typically covered by traditional homeowners insurance policies. Instead, they'll need to purchase a commercial insurance policy written specifically for their coverage needs.
What Does Landlord Insurance Cover?
Most landlord insurance policies offer protection from three types of losses:
- Property Damage: Much like dwelling coverage under a traditional homeowners insurance policy, landlord insurance covers damage to the structure of your home due to any covered perils, such as fire, wind, hail, or snow. Additionally, the policy will cover your personal property, such as kitchen appliances, furniture, or televisions, that you leave onsite for tenant use. However, your landlord insurance policy typically won't cover your tenants' personal property. Always review the types of coverage listed on your landlord policy's declaration page. If certain coverages, such as vandalism, aren't listed, ask your insurance agent if those need to be added as optional riders.
- Liability: Your landlord policy's liability or medical coverage clause protects you legally if someone is injured on your property. For example, if a tenant falls and breaks a bone on your property, they may try to sue you. In this case, your insurance company would try to reach a settlement on your behalf and pay the associated costs, less any relevant deductibles. However, if a tenant's guest is injured on your property, the tenant’s renters insurance policy may cover liability for any lawsuits.
- Loss of Rental Income: If your property is damaged in a covered peril, such as a fire, and you're unable to rent out the home, your landlord insurance policy may cover you for lost rental income. Ask your insurance agent if rent-loss insurance is included in your policy or if it needs to be added as an optional rider.
In addition to these common types of coverage, your landlord insurance provider may offer other forms of protection, either as part of the core policy or as optional endorsements. For example, State Farm offers coverage for "tenant move back expenses," which are the moving fees incurred if you have to temporarily move your tenant out of the home in order to repair the property.
As another example, Allstate's landlord insurance policy usually won't cover costs associated with vandalism unless you add the optional vandalism rider. If you rent out a property in an area prone to petty crime, this rider may be more appropriate than for someone renting out a property in a little-trafficked, low-crime rural area.
Here are some other optional riders you can add to your landlord insurance policy:
- Building Code Coverage: If your area's building codes have changed since your property was built, and the home is damaged and in need of repair, you'll probably be required to meet the current codes. This coverage will cover the additional cost of making required renovations.
- Non-Occupied Dwelling Endorsement: If your property is vacant for more than 30 days, your landlord insurance company may deny coverage for any claims that arise after that 30-day period, and until it is re-occupied. This optional endorsement will extend your coverage during that period.
- Heating or Air Conditioning Loss Reimbursement: This coverage will reimburse you for any payments you make to your tenants due to the mechanical breakdown of your property's heating or cooling systems.
Landlord Insurance vs. Renters Insurance
While your landlord insurance policy covers any personal property you leave in your rental unit for tenant use, the policy won't provide any reimbursement for your tenant’s own property. To insure their belongings and any damage they cause, and to protect you from higher premiums and liability, you should require your tenants to take out their own renters insurance policy upon signing the lease. It’s best to specify this requirement in the lease and to have the renter name you, the landlord, as an additional insured person on their policy. The lease should also include a non-negotiable hold-harmless, or indemnity, clause that shields the landlord from any damage to or injury incurred on the property.
Do I Need Any Other Insurance for a Rental Property?
In addition to your landlord insurance policy, consider whether these other types of coverage are necessary for your property.
Personal Umbrella Policy
All insurance policies have limits to the dollar amount of coverage they provide. For example, if old wiring causes a fire and the entire apartment building is destroyed, the related costs could exceed your landlord policy's liability coverage. In this situation, a personal umbrella policy would provide coverage beyond your landlord insurance policy's limits. Liability coverage is usually sold in increments of $1 million. The more assets you have and the more exposed to liability you are, the more coverage you should buy. You should think particularly hard about purchasing umbrella coverage if you own multiple rental properties, since you are at higher risk of being sued, and have more assets to protect.
Flooding is one of the most common and expensive perils to property across the country, and landlord, homeowners, and renters insurance policies typically exclude flood damage. Whether it's legally required depends on your state and your region's flood risk. However, flood damage can occur even if you don't live in an official at-risk area. Evaluate your property's flood risk to determine whether you need flood insurance.
Though the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulates flood insurance costs for the entire country, you can only purchase coverage through an independent insurance company. Ask your landlord insurance agent if they offer flood insurance. If they don't, the NFIP can provide a list of participating insurers. Finally, take any necessary steps to protect your property from flooding.
Landlord insurance policies also typically exclude damage due to earthquakes. However, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, 42 states are considered at risk of earthquakes. If you have a history of earthquakes in your area, or you want to be protected from earthquake damage in the future, consider purchasing an earthquake insurance policy.
Consider Creating an LLC
By putting your rental property into a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), you can limit the exposure to your personal assets if a renter or other individual tries to sue for damages that occurred on your rental property.
What's the Best Company for Landlord Insurance?
Most major homeowners insurance companies, such as GEICO, Nationwide and Liberty Mutual, offer landlord insurance policies. The best company to start with is probably the company that currently provides your homeowners insurance policy, since you may be eligible for a discount for taking out multiple policies. Once you've received their quote, compare prices from multiple companies to find the best rates for your specific region.
What Final Steps Do I Need to Take Before Renting Out My Property?
Before renting out your property, review these steps to make sure your risks are limited:
- Clean, repair and prep the property to reduce the likelihood of injuries and subsequent claims.
- Work with an attorney to carefully word your lease language in order to provide maximum protection.
- Purchase a landlord insurance policy that provides the maximum amount of insurance you can reasonably afford; add any necessary endorsements to make sure you're adequately protected.
- Require your renter to purchase and provide proof of renters insurance before signing the lease.
- Consider putting your rental property into an LLC in order to insulate your personal assets in case a renter tries to file a lawsuit against you.