Question: I am a new landlord and I was curious whether the standard renter’s insurance policy covers the landlord for damage to the rental made by the tenant during their tenancy?

Landlords’ attorney Smith replies:

In most cases, no. The standard renter’s insurance policy does not cover the landlord for ordinary damage to the rental made by the tenant during the tenancy. Tenant-landlord laws typically require the tenant to keep the rental in good condition and repair but provide for an allowance for ordinary wear and tear. Customarily, the tenant’s security deposit may be used by the landlord to cover damages beyond ordinary wear and tear. When repairs and cleaning exceed the security deposit amount, the tenant is responsible. However, in the ordinary tenant damage case, the tenant’s insurance coverage is not triggered. Still, the tenant remains financially responsible for damaging the unit – with or without tenant insurance. Some instances of vandalism or malicious mischief by the tenant or guests could invoke a claim under the renter’s policy. Of course, the landlord’s own policy may provide coverage in the case of criminal vandalism.

It should be noted that most states do not require a renter to have a tenant insurance policy in order to rent. This is a negotiable item between the landlord and tenant. Tenants are advised that, while renter’s insurance may not be mandatory, it is a very good idea to have it. If tenants desire to protect themselves in the rental, coverage for fire, theft, liability, workers compensation and other perils are strongly recommended.

Property manager Griswold replies:

Even though a landlord will not be able to seek recovery for the routine damage caused by the day-to-day living or poor housekeeping of a tenant, there are many direct and indirect benefits to landlords when their tenants carry renter’s insurance. Therefore, while not legally required, it is my advice that prudent landlords require their tenant’s to carry renter’s insurance. Of course, the purpose of the renter’s insurance is to provide reimbursement and liability coverage to the tenant in the event of a loss suffered by the tenant. However, a landlord could directly benefit in the event the tenant or their guests create a loss to the overall premises, as the landlord’s insurance provider could subrogate or seek contribution or reimbursement for the damages caused by the tenant. For example, if the tenant negligently started a fire that damaged their rental unit and others, the landlord’s insurance company will typically handle the immediate need to make repairs, while retaining the right to seek compensation from the tenant or their insurance company. Also, an indirect benefit is derived, as I have found that tenants without renter’s insurance are more likely to seek compensation from their landlord for any loss they suffer regardless of the actual circumstances. For example, while landlords should always caution tenants that crime can occur anywhere, an uninsured tenant is more likely to attempt to blame the landlord should they become a victim of theft.

Question:My tenant said I did not do a good job of extermination so he now wants to call a professional service and then subtract the cost from his rent.What is my recourse?

Landlords’ attorney Smith replies:

Generally speaking, the tenants are prohibited from making repairs to rental property without permission.In this case, the landlord and the vendor control the quality of the extermination job.If the job is done satisfactorily, the tenant may not redo it with his own exterminator. The tenant-landlord laws in most states provide for a tenant to use “repair and deduct” statutes that authorize the tenant, in limited circumstances only, to make a repair and deduct it from rent. Typically, advance written notice must be given and there are limitations on how often or even the type of repairs that qualify. For example, the item must be of a serious nature and the landlord must be given the opportunity to first make the repair.If the tenant fails to follows these requirements, then you could serve a legal notice demanding the immediate payment for the deducted amount.If the tenant fails to pay, an eviction could be filed with the court.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies,” and San Diego attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenant’s Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords.

Email your questions to Rental Q&A at

Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

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