Umbrella coverage is one of the best ways to layer on liability protection for you and your family. But does it apply to all liability? If you’re a landlord, you might be wondering if your personal umbrella policy will cover your rental properties.
Read on to learn more about how you can utilize umbrella coverage to protect yourself as a landlord.
What is umbrella insurance?
An umbrella policy, also called “excess liability” coverage, is a form of liability insurance that supplements your auto, home, or renters standard policy. “Liability” refers to situations where you are sued and held responsible for property damages or bodily injuries to another party.
Umbrella policies cover a higher liability limit, usually a minimum of $1 million. For your home/renters or auto insurance, umbrella will cover the same sorts of liabilities at a higher coverage. For example, it will cover a third-party’s damages and injuries if you are responsible for an auto accident, or it will pay someone’s medical bills if they are injured on your property.
But umbrella insurance is also special in that it covers a broader form of liability as well. For example, it will even cover your legal fees (whether or not you are found at-fault), false arrest, libel, slander, dog bites, and responsibility while volunteering.
Can umbrella insurance cover landlords?
Yes! Umbrella insurance is a great investment for landlords with one or many rental properties. As a landlord, you are responsible or the health and safety of your tenants and their guests. Umbrella policies will help raise your liability limits in the case that something happens on your rental property that is completely or partially your fault.
Scenarios where umbrella insurance would cover you as a landlord:
- A tenant or guest is injured in a communal area, like a gym, lobby, staircase, or patio
- A third party sues you for damages your tenants cause
- A former resident breaks into the apartment because you didn’t change the lock
- A tenant sues you for wrongful entry or invasion of privacy
- Your rental property is vacant and someone (neighborhood kid or squatter) is injured while on your property
- Someone is injured with your property in the rental, like if you neglected to care for the stove
- You are sued and have to pay your legal defenses, whether or not you are found at fault
The most common claim that landlords see is the “staircase fall.” If a handrail is broken, carpet is loose, or a step is uneven, your tenants or guests could trip and fall on the stairs. Even a small injury could result in major fines, as it’s your responsibility to care for and manage communal areas (unless otherwise specified). You want to ensure that you keep staircases to code, shovel and salt icy walkways, and have sturdy handrails available to prevent trips and falls on your rental property.
Note: We generally recommend that landlords require their tenants to hold renters insurance. This ensures your tenants are also protected against liability, and you aren’t stuck with the bill for an entire claim.
What does umbrella insurance not cover?
Here’s where the line gets a little fuzzy. Most personal umbrella policies will not cover liability incurred in business or professional activities. This requires business liability insurance. So, if you run your rental property under a separate business or LLC, your personal umbrella policy (attached to your home or auto insurance, for example) may not be applicable.
Some insurers will actually offer umbrella insurance as an add-on to your landlord insurance. Standard landlord insurance covers property damage and liability up to a certain limit. You can then stack on a landlord-specific umbrella policy to raise these limits. This is a smart move if you run multiple rentals under a business entity.
Tip: If you have landlord insurance attached to a business account, it’s usually considered a business expense so the insurance could be tax deductible.
How much umbrella insurance do I need?
If you are a landlord, you likely have a substantial amount of assets you want to protect. The higher your net worth, the more someone can sue you for in the case of a liability accident. In such a litigious society, that means one trip or slip on your rental property could cause you to lose the entire building—if not even more of your personal assets.
We recommend you get enough umbrella insurance to cover the entirety of your assets. Umbrella insurance policies start at a minimum of $1 million in coverage and can reach up to $5 or $10 million. You can get an even higher specialty policy from some insurers. Umbrella policies are generally low cost but offer a lot of cushion in the case of an incident.
If you have assets to protect, an umbrella insurance policy can be a wise decision if you rent out your home. If you’re a landlord, ask your insurance agent about adding on an umbrella policy.
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