Imagine this scenario: It’s the middle of winter in New York City, and the sidewalks are coated in a treacherous layer of ice after a storm the previous night. Before maintenance has a chance to sprinkle salt and melt the ice, a tenant slips and falls on the slick steps of your rental property, leading to severe injuries.
You pride yourself on being a great landlord! Despite your consistent diligence in keeping the property safe and well-maintained, the tenant decides to take legal action, alleging negligence on your part. To your dismay, the judge sides with your tenant, and you’re on the hook for over $1M in legal fees, medical expenses, and lost income as they recover.
You might assume your landlord insurance has you covered, but there’s a problem – your policy’s liability coverage maxes out at $500,000. Where will the remaining $500,000 come from?!
This is where your umbrella insurance policy steps in.
Think of an umbrella insurance policy as a safety net that extends beyond the coverage limit of your landlord liability insurance, covering those unexpected legal expenses that could otherwise leave you financially vulnerable. Essentially, it’s a “just in case” policy for your rental properties, an added layer of protection to ensure your peace of mind.
Being a landlord is a risky business. You are responsible for keeping your tenants safe, but serious accidents can happen any time, despite your best intentions. In situations like the one described above, an umbrella insurance policy could be the difference between preserving your financial stability and facing a crippling financial setback.
What does an umbrella insurance policy for rental properties cover?
Generally, an umbrella policy for a rental property covers the same types of liability claims as your regular landlord insurance. The distinction is that an umbrella policy kicks in after your other insurance policies reach their liability limits.
So, you might be wondering, do I really need an umbrella policy? Realistically, won’t landlord insurance cover most liability claims anyway?
Unfortunately, not always. It is far from rare for landlords to face lawsuits that exceed the liability limits of their primary policy, especially in New York’s litigious climate. Consider the owners of this Bronx apartment, who faced a $3 billion class-action lawsuit alleging a fatal fire was caused by their negligence.
Let’s dive into some common situations in which an umbrella insurance policy could be a lifesaver for landlords:
- Bodily Injuries: Picture a tenant slipping on an icy sidewalk during a harsh New York winter, leading to a serious injury. If the tenant sues, an umbrella policy can bridge the coverage gap beyond your primary liability insurance policy.
- Negligence Claims: Overlooking maintenance could result in unforeseen accidents with escalating costs. Let’s say there is a broken railing on a steep staircase in your building. If a tenant slips and breaks their neck and you are found liable, the bill could be financially devastating.
- Squatter Liability: Believe it or not, if squatters enter your vacant property and an accident happens, they could sue you. An umbrella policy steps in to protect you.
- Security Concerns: Tenant belongings stolen or damaged due to property-related issues? An umbrella policy can serve as your safety net when facing claims.
- Health Hazards: Environmental hazards like mold or lead-based paint can lead to tenant health issues. Even if you weren’t aware of these hazards, you might face legal claims for medical costs.
- Tenant Disputes: Disagreements over lease violations or discrimination claims can swiftly pile up legal fees. An umbrella policy provides the necessary support to manage these challenges.
- Tenant Belongings: If tenant belongings suffer theft or damage due to property-related issues, you might face claims. An umbrella policy offers the reassurance you need.
- Legal Defense Costs: Even if you’re found not responsible in a lawsuit, legal defense costs can accumulate. An umbrella policy helps you manage these financial burdens.
It’s worth noting that unlike standard landlord or homeowners insurance, umbrella insurance covers multiple rental properties, even if they’re in different states. So if you’re a real estate investor who owns dozens of properties across New York City, Chicago, and Miami, you’ll still only need one umbrella insurance policy.
What is not covered by an umbrella insurance policy for rental properties?
While umbrella policies provide broad coverage, it’s important to be aware of the exclusions. Umbrella policies for rental properties usually don’t cover property damage, intentional actions by the landlord, personal injuries, or punitive damages, to name a few examples.
In certain cases, you may require tailored coverage related to your rental property. For example, if your rental property is also used for business, consider getting a separate business or commercial umbrella policy. That way, you can deal with the specific risks connected to those operations.
Liability Coverage for Landlords: Umbrella Policy for Rental Property vs. LLC
Another popular option for landlords seeking to protect themselves from potential lawsuits is to set up a limited liability company, or LLC.
Think of LLCs as a way to create a legal separation between yourself and your property. So in the event of a liability claim, the LLC would be responsible for any damages, not you personally.
However, it’s essential to remember that while an LLC provides some protection, your assets can still be at risk. For instance, suppose your landlord liability insurance isn’t enough to cover a tenant’s accident on your property. Although the LLC would shield you from personal liability, you still might be forced to sell the property to pay the LLC’s legal bills.
In summary, setting up an LLC and securing an umbrella insurance policy for your rental property are not mutually exclusive. Each type of protection includes distinct protections for landlords. For this reason, real estate investors who want the best possible coverage often opt for both.
Why Choose HCP?
At HCP, we’re landlords ourselves, and we’ve worked with New York property owners for over 100 years. We understand the liability risks landlords like you face, and we’re passionate about providing you with the knowledge and expertise you need to make informed decisions and safeguard your financial future.
We’ll offer comprehensive guidance that will help protect you with the right level of coverage.
Whether it’s understanding the benefits of an umbrella insurance policy, exploring the coverage it provides, or considering other options like setting up an LLC, we’re here to be your trusted advisors every step of the way.
Don’t let unexpected events leave you in a precarious position. Let us help you create a solid plan that protects your interests and preserves your hard-earned investments. Contact us today for a free consultation and let’s build a lasting partnership focused on your peace of mind.