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Cohabitation and insurance: Separate but equal? p. 2

Fri Oct 26th, 2012 on     Insurance Claims,    

We are talking about how two or more unrelated adults who share a rented house or apartment can have some interesting insurance questions. For example, married couples can share a policy, but state law may prohibit unmarried couples from being the named insureds on one policy. In our last post, we talked about how cohabitation can affect property insurance for renters; in this post, we want to tackle renters liability policies.

Here, Florida’s landlord/tenant laws would come into play. Generally, the landlord is responsible for the common areas, and the tenant is responsible for anything that happens inside the apartment. If, however, an injury occurs in the apartment, and the cause is structural or some kind of hidden defect, the landlord may be responsible. The difference can be tricky, so it’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney if you have a question.

For example, you and your roommate have a guest over for dinner. The guest falls on the stairs to the front door, because the wood has rotted away. The landlord would probably be liable, and the landlord’s insurance would cover the injury.

If you spill water on the kitchen floor, though, and your guest slips, falls and breaks an arm, you would be responsible. Your renters policy would probably cover the guest’s medical bills. If the puddle were caused by a burst water pipe, the landlord might be liable. Technically, the pipes are considered a “common area,” and because the renter’s responsibility stops at the paint on the wall — “from the paint in” is the industry term — you could argue that the landlord should be liable for the guest’s injury.

In those situations, a lot would depend on state law and insurance policy language. If the water had been on the floor for some time, and the renter had not made the landlord aware of it, and had failed to warn the guest, the renter could be liable. As we said, it can be tricky.

Roommates should research all of their options before they make a decision on renters insurance. Every roommate situation is different, so the insurance needs will be different, too.

Source: Insurance Information Institute, “A Rise in Roommates Raises Questions about Home and Auto Insurance,” Oct. 5, 2012

Our firm works with clients whose renters or homeowners insurance claims are wrongfully denied. If you visit the insurance disputes page of our website, you can learn more about our Miami, Florida, practice.

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