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Ask a Tenant Attorney: Why You Need Renters Insurance. Now.

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Ask a Tenants Right’s Lawyer is your chance to learn how to survive as a renter in San Francisco. Attorney Daniel Wayne has a lot of the information you need to keep you in your home.  This month’s topic: renter’s insurance and how it can save your ass. For the original published version of this article check out Daniel’s blog: Got a question? Send an email to and we will forward it on.

Eric Leese sits on a couch in his flooded living room in Metairie, outside New Orleans September 5, 2005. Thousands of residents of suburban New Orleans returned on Monday to inspect homes wrecked by Hurricane Katrina and President George W. Bush went back to the disaster zone to quell a political crisis over bungled aid efforts. Pictures of the Year 2005 REUTERS/Lee Celano FR05090007 ljc/VP - RTRMPX1

photo: new orleans, 2005 REUTERS/Lee Celano

I speak with a lot of tenants on a day-to-day basis. Many of the tenants I speak to have been displaced or had their personal property damaged or destroyed as a result of fires, flooding, or ongoing repair work. Inevitably I always ask them is “Do you have renters insurance?” Why? Because while your losses may form the basis for a lawsuit, you may not see any money for a year or more, and the consequences can be dire. In this months edition I address the importance of having renters insurance for Bay Area tenants.

Loss of Use / Relocation Assistance
If your building catches fire or floods there’s a good chance you’re going to have to move out – at least temporarily – and that you’re going to have to fork out some money for a hotel, clothes, food, toiletries etc. While depending on what caused the displacement your landlord may ultimately be on the hook for your damages, lawsuits can take a year or more to resolve, which doesn’t do much for you when you need a place to sleep or a change of clothes. If you live in the Bay Area, particularly in San Francisco or Oakland you know that finding a place to live on short notice is no easy task. If you have to move into another apartment or stay in a hotel while your place is getting fixed up how will you pay for it? Most renters insurance policies include relocation assistance which can be absolutely crucial if you find yourself out of a home and no place to go. Different policies provide different limits on relocation assistance, so be sure to look into the options when considering which one to go with.

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Your landlord may not be on the hook for damages
Renters insurance also provides coverage for personal property theft, damage or loss depending on your policy. So if someone breaks into your place or a flood or fire destroys your belongings your items will be covered. Again the amount of coverage you get depends on the policy so make sure you match the coverage to the value of your stuff. Not only that, most insurance will cover your personal belongings (bikes etc.) in the event of theft even if it’s not taken from your home.

Your insurance company has a duty to fight for your interests, your landlord does not
While it may be clear that an incident that causes you to have to relocate or damages your property was your landlord’s fault, getting them to own up to it and compensate you is not always easy.  (For you landlords out there: I’m not picking on you – that goes for everyone when things go wrong, not just you).  Being right isn’t always enough; sometimes you have to hire an attorney or go to small claims court to get reimbursed for your losses, which can take time and money. To some degree a lawsuit may be unavoidable, but a good insurance company will go to bat for you and help hold your landlord accountable, rather than leaving you to go it alone.

It’s just too cheap not to have

In the end renter’s insurance isn’t a magic cure all, but given how affordable it is and how potentially devastating losing your home to a disaster can be, it is a no brainer.  Renter’s insurance runs around $12 – $20 a month and most insurance companies have policies where you can easily add it on with your existing insurance which can lower your policy costs. That’s a few hundred dollars a year to save you thousands.  In a place like the Bay Area where housing is hard to come by renter’s insurance might just be the difference between chasing the dream and moving back to mom’s couch


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Daniel Wayne - Tenant's Rights Attorney

Daniel Wayne - Tenant's Rights Attorney

Daniel Wayne is a San Francisco based tenants rights attorney and a founding partner of Wolford Wayne LLP. Wolford Wayne is a tenant's rights firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of residential tenants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an active member of the California State Bar, the San Francisco Bar Association, and the Tenants Together Network. Daniel volunteers at the San Francisco Tenant's Union, and has appeared on 91.7 FM KALW's "Know Your Legal Rights" Program. He received the Outstanding Volunteer in Public Service award from the San Francisco Bar Association in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and has been named a Super Lawyer Rising Star each of the past six years, an honor bestowed on the top 2.5% of Attorneys. He is originally from Seattle, Washington and makes his home here in San Francisco. For more tips for tenants and the latest on tenant's rights follow Wolford Wayne on twitter at @sftenantlaw or visit their website: for more information.

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