Suppose you want to turn a house you own into a full-time rental property. What kind of insurance do you need to help protect your place when renters live there? You most likely need a landlord policy. But if you plan to have tenants only occasionally, homeowners insurance may be a better fit. Here are some factors to consider when determining what kind of insurance is appropriate for your situation.
If you're planning on temporarily renting out your home for a single occasion (to coincide with a big sporting event in your town, for instance), then it's possible that your existing homeowners policy may provide some protection, says the Insurance Information Institute (III). A homeowners insurance policy may help cover damage caused by certain risks, such as a fire or break-in, if you rent out your home occasionally. However, you may find that you cannot purchase homeowners insurance if you do not live in the home.
If you're planning on renting out your single-family home (or a second home/investment property) on an ongoing basis, then you're likely a candidate for landlord insurance, says the III, because a homeowners policy typically won't protect you in this scenario.
Like a homeowners policy, landlord insurance typically helps cover the building itself (and other structures on the property, such as sheds or fences) if there's damage from a fire, lighting, wind, hail or another covered loss. To purchase homeowners insurance, you must live in the home. Homeowners insurance may offer coverage if you're living in your single-family home and renting out a room to tenants, depending on the number of people renting or the length of their stay in your home. Coverage varies by insurer or policy, so check with your agent before you rent out a room in your place. If you plan to rent out your entire home to tenants, you'll need landlord insurance.Other key differences between homeowners and landlord policies include:
Personal property coverage. While homeowners insurance may help cover many kinds of belongings, such as furniture, clothing and computers, landlord insurance typically only provides coverage for items used to service the rented property. So, if you leave personal items behind that are not used to service the rental property, you'll likely find that landlord insurance won't provide protection. It may, however, help cover items such as a snowblower or lawn mower that you store on site to help maintain the property.
Liability coverage. Landlord insurance typically only provides liability coverage relating to the rented premises. If a tenant is hurt in the home you're renting out and you are found legally responsible, the liability coverage on your landlord policy may help pay for the resulting medical expenses or legal fees. Meanwhile, the liability portion of a homeowners policy typically covers you and relatives who live with you in the home, whether the accident happens in your home or not.
How renters insurance protects your tenants. Landlord insurance and homeowners insurance do not cover your tenants' personal belongings. That's why you may want to make renters insurance a condition of your lease. Renters insurance may help protect your tenants' possessions, and also provide them with some liability protection. It's a good idea to give some thought to the risk of inviting paying guests into your home —and read your policy to make sure you have the appropriate coverages in place —before you welcome renters for any length of time.