How renters liability insurance works

Liability insurance is meant to cover you if you cause property damage or bodily injury to another person. This coverage is included in a standard renters insurance policy, making it one of the four primary coverages protected by renters insurance.

How much personal liability insurance do you need as a renter? Read on to learn more about coverage limits, rates and more.

Key takeaways
Key takeaways
  • The liability section of renters insurance covers bodily injury and property damage to others if an accident were to occur on your rental property.
  • Renters insurance and personal liability insurance are not mandated by law, but some apartment complexes and landlords will require some form of insurance in order to sign a lease.
  • While most insurance types require that you pay a deductible before a claim payout, liability insurance does not.

Liability insurance defined

Liability insurance pays the other party in the event that an accident on your rental property caused bodily harm or damage to their property. This insurance coverage protects you if you are found legally responsible for such an event — for instance, if your dog bites a neighbor, someone falls in your apartment, or a friend's personal property is broken.

What liability insurance covers

Renters insurance consists of four important coverages: your liability, your personal property, your additional living expenses and medical payments to others.

The personal liability section of renters insurance policies only covers property damage and bodily injury to another person and their medical expenses — not you, members of your household or your property. Other parts of your insurance policy are meant to protect you: personal property coverage and additional living expenses.

Renters liability coverage is meant to pay for repairs to the property or medical bills for others up to the coverage limits. It may also cover legal fees if the incident requires legal mitigation. While most parts of insurance require that you pay a deductible before the coverage kicks in, this is generally not the case with liability claims.

Scenarios in which renters liability insurance provides protection

  • Injuries and/or liabilities in your home:  A visiting friend trips and breaks a bone.
  • Damage to others’ property originating from your home: Your pipe bursts and causes water damage to the apartment below.
  • Damage to other people’s property for which you (or a member of your household) is responsible: You break an expensive item at a neighbor’s home.

What renters liability doesn't cover 

Personal liability insurance under a renters policy does not cover you or your property. It also does not offer coverage in the event of damage caused by intentional act (this is true for all forms of insurance).

This type of coverage is meant to provide protection in the event of incidents occurring within your rental unit — accidents in common areas like sidewalks or lobbies will be covered by your landlord’s insurance. Liability protection will also not cover you if it was business-related: this would be covered by a commercial policy.

Auto accidents fall under car insurance, not renters coverage. In the case of liability related to a social event you host (such as a party), some states may find the host of the event partially responsible for any guest's resulting accidents or injuries. The guest’s auto insurance would primarily play a part in such a case, but your personal liability policy might have to kick in if you live in one of these states.

Is renters liability insurance required? 

By law, renters insurance is not required to hold. However, many apartment complexes require that their tenants have a renters insurance policy in order to sign a lease. While a standard renters insurance policy is typically inexpensive and offers coverage for both you and others, you may also choose to purchase personal liability insurance alone. See more about this below.

It is a bit more difficult to find a liability-only policy than it is to find a standard renters insurance policy. Many insurance companies offer renters insurance, and often give discounts when bundled with another line of insurance, like auto insurance. For more information on bundling and renters policies, contact your insurance agent.

How much renters liability coverage is necessary?

The amount of personal liability insurance you should carry depends on your specific situation. Policy limits usually start somewhere around $100,000 but can be increased. Those with significant assets will naturally need to increase their liability protection, but there are a number of reasons to increase your liability limits, including:

  • Your net worth (the higher it is, the higher your limits should be)
  • You have a pool or other attractive nuisance
  • You play organized sports
  • Your job puts you at risk of a liability claim (teacher, doctor, lawyer, contractor, etc.)

If you need additional personal liability coverage, reach out to your insurance company to inquire about higher limits or consider an umbrella policy.


Average renters insurance rates by liability coverage tier

How much you pay for renters insurance depends on how much coverage you have.

The higher the coverage, the higher your rate will be. Luckily, renters insurance is quite affordable even at the highest liability coverage tier.

Coverage Limit Average Annual Rate 
$100K $246
$300K $260
$500K $269

There are several ways to purchase a renters insurance policy online. Lemonade is a relatively new insurance provider in the U.S. Lemonade offers customized coverage without all the additional fees a standard insurance company requires. Get a free renters insurance quote.

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If my girlfriend is moving in with me, should we get separate renters insurance policies?

Here is a good article on sharing renters insurance with a roommate. In my personal opinion, sharing a policy with any person who isn't a spouse is not a good idea.
Apr 20, 2017 Lee's Summit, MO

Who is responsible for carrying sinkhole insurance? The renters or the landlord?

If your parents are renters, they are not responsible for the property — just their own liability and possessions — so it's not required to have sinkhole insurance since that's property-related. The landlord has to maintain safe living conditions for their property.
Sep 4, 2019 Bristol, TN

Why are my limits of liability increased when I buy an umbrella policy?

This is how umbrella policies are designed to operate. Basically, an umbrella policy sits on top of your other insurance policies such as your homeowners or auto policy.
May 10, 2018 Decatur, GA

Will my HO4 renters policy cover wet fungi protection?

I can't answer this question - you need to look at the exclusions and special coverages in your renters' insurance policy dec page (declaration page). That part of your policy will specify how much coverage you have - if any.
Feb 26, 2019 Bourne, MA

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Renata BalascoSEO Content Strategist

Renata is a licensed insurance professional and content strategist responsible for creating home and auto insurance guides for The Zebra.

Renata's background in technical writing and her experience working in the insurance industry informs her work. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Renata's work has been cited by Car and Driver