Q: Can I require that my tenants get and maintain renters insurance?

A: You could. A renters insurance policy will normally cover the loss of a tenant’s possessions, as well as relocation expenses if the tenant has to be displaced when there is damage through no fault of the landlord.

For example, a pipe bursts and water cascades down the ceiling and damages a $10,000 Persian rug. All of the tenant’s electronics are destroyed. Or an intoxicated driver slams into the rental unit, making it inhabitable. Even if there is no negligence on the part of the landlord, the tenant will certainly look to them for compensation.

A properly prepared lease agreement will have a paragraph that the tenant must maintain insurance that will cover any losses sustained to their personal possessions, vehicles, or expenses associated with relocating. By having this and other language in the lease, the tenant is hard-pressed to successfully argue that the landlord is responsible for making them whole.

Many housing providers and their agents do not have the necessary verbiage in their leases. We know this because a recurring theme in our practice is landlords and property managers using stale, outdated rental agreements that do not adequately protect them. If you fall in this category, Bornstein Law can certainly help modernize your lease agreements.


Keep in mind that owners and their agents can, with proper notice, change the terms of a tenancy, and this is best approached with attorneys who practice landlord-tenant law daily.

You might ask what happens if the tenant does not maintain renters insurance and in that case, it is on them. The goal is to shift liability from the landlord to the tenant.


An interesting question is whether or not a tenant can be evicted if he or she did not maintain renters insurance.

Under statewide rent and eviction controls, as delineated in AB-1482, the tenant can be evicted for a “material” breach of the lease. This term is ambiguous, but the language is stronger if the rental property is situated in a jurisdiction with stricter tenant protections.

Take San Francisco, for instance. The tenant can be evicted when he or she is in violation of a lawful obligation or covenant of their tenancy and it is deemed to be “substantial.” Furthermore, the tenant must be given written notice of the violation and be allowed to correct it.

Oakland goes a step further by stating that before starting the eviction process because of an underlying lease violation, the transgression must be reasonable, substantial, and create injury to the landlord.

Like most other topics we cover at Bornstein Law, the law is always cleaner on the page than it is in real life and any disputes that arise in the rental relationship will be decided on a case-by-case basis. For informed advice, reach out to our office and we can consult you on how to proceed.