You finally found a good apartment – it has hardwood floors, a short commute, and a Dunkin’ at the end of the street. The landlord accepted your rental application. Now you’re studying the lease agreement before you sign. It says the landlord requires a renters insurance policy for all tenants. Is that allowed? Do you really need it? Renters insurance might feel like yet another annoying bill on top of your rent, but it can be worth the hassle.
Is tenant liability insurance mandatory?
Massachusetts state law allows landlords to require tenants to buy renters insurance. Landlords can make renters insurance mandatory for their property, refusing to enter a lease agreement with you unless you buy insurance. However, MA doesn’t require renters to have tenant liability insurance. You may be able to find a landlord who doesn’t require renters insurance.
When looking at your lease agreement, check the fees your landlord is charging. Massachusetts law only lets landlords and rental property owners collect four types of fees from new lessees:
- First month’s rent
- Last month’s rent
- A security deposit equal to or less than the first month’s rent
- Payment for the purchase and installment of a new key and lock
Other fees, like an application fee, amenity fee, or pet security deposit, are illegal. This means that, although landlords can require you to buy a renters insurance policy, they cannot ask you to pay them upfront for a renters insurance policy they buy on your behalf. If your lease agreement includes renters insurance, you should be buying it from an insurance company, not from your landlord.
Which states limit landlords from requiring renters insurance?
If you’re looking to avoid a lease with renters insurance required, you won’t necessarily improve your chances by leaving Massachusetts. No state mandates renters insurance, but all 50 American states allow landlords to require it as part of a lease agreement.
Why a landlord in Massachusetts might require renters insurance
There are two reasons landlords typically require renters insurance. One, they care about their tenants and want to protect them financially. Two, it’s good business sense for them.
How renters insurance helps tenants
Part of why landlords require tenants to have renters insurance is to protect the tenants. Landlords get homeowners or property insurance for the buildings they rent out, but they know their insurance only applies to damage to the building, not to the stuff inside it. If a fire or sewage leak wreaks havoc on your apartment, the landlord’s insurance won’t pay to replace your damaged belongings. Renters insurance coverage, on the other hand, will cover your belongings from damage and theft.
Similarly, if a visitor inside your apartment hurts themselves, you might be liable (legally responsible) for their injuries. Renters insurance helps pay for the medical expenses if you’re liable for someone’s injury.
Plus, if you break part of the rental property, renters insurance will pay for repairs. Landlords want their tenants to feel safe and secure on the property. Insurance will do the job.
The other reason landlords make you get renters insurance
As is often the case, the reason is money. Landlords know tenants are more able to pay for property repairs when they have renters insurance, so they prefer for you to be insured. Similarly, if you have renters insurance, there’s a lower chance that you or your guests will sue the landlord for injuries or lost/damaged belongings. If a visitor breaks their wrist tripping on your rug or a thief steals your laptop, you can get recompense through your renters insurance policy.
Do you need renters insurance in Massachusetts?
You only need to get renters insurance in Massachusetts if your landlord requires it. Renters insurance will help you pay for lost or stolen possessions and injuries that happen in your apartment, so you might want to get it. You can learn more about how renters insurance works on our blog – and if you need a policy, give us a call! We’ll keep it simple.