Do renters have to have home contents insurance?

Do renters have to have home contents insurance?

The classic case of household insurance: The breakage of a water pipe that damages a piece of furniture in a flat

The classic case of household insurance: The breakage of a water pipe that damages a piece of furniture in a flat

© IMAGO/Ralph Peters

Time and time again, landlords ask their tenants to take out household insurance. Although such clauses in the rental agreement are generally not legally binding, home contents insurance is advantageous to renters.

A water pipe breaks and the entire rented apartment is knee-deep in water. All the furniture is ruined and the apartment is uninhabitable. A classic case of household insurance, which protects personal property, that is, furniture, televisions or clothing, in case of damage caused by fire, lightning, storm and hail, mains water or theft.

More and more owners are asking their tenants to take out household insurance. They already insist on the corresponding proof of insurance in the rental contract or point out the condition of a household policy in case of damage. From a legal point of view, these types of clauses are usually invalid and non-binding for tenants. Although the policy is not mandatory for renters, it still offers them some advantages.

The reason why more and more landlords require household goods insurance from their tenants is simple: “The landlord thus transfers possible costs in the event of damage to his tenant or his household goods insurance,” explains lawyer Jörg Hänsel of the Cologne Tenants Association. . For example, in the event of a water main break, the landlord is legally obligated to remove the tenant’s belongings from the apartment, pay for their storage, and ensure that the tenants are accommodated during the renovation work. If the tenant has household insurance, the insurer bears these costs.

Tenants who do not take out a policy despite having a home insurance clause do not get into legal difficulties in the event of damage. “Even if tenants sign a rental agreement with the condition, they are not actually required to take out household goods insurance,” says expert Hänsel. Because tenants must give a maximum of three months’ rent as a guarantee to the owner. This is established by paragraph 551 of the German Civil Code (BGB), which regulates the limitation and investment of rental values. Since landlords typically require these three months’ rent, additional guarantees, such as household items insurance coverage, are void.

Landlords who require the relevant proof can confidently refer tenants to Article 551 of the German Civil Code. Those interested in housing, on the other hand, had better hold back. In the tense housing market, even the smallest discrepancy can set prospective buyers off. Jörg Hänsel therefore advises: “Sign the rental agreement anyway. The clause is also ineffective with a signature.” This means that there is no disadvantage for the tenant even with the signature.

Negotiated clauses are legal

Home contents insurance clauses are only effective under one exception: namely, when renters and landlords negotiate the condition. Negotiating does not mean simply reading and signing the clause, but an actual exchange of the terms of the contract. That is to say, a conversation in which the landlord explains that he cannot demand household insurance, but in exchange he grants the tenant other advantages. Only in this case said clause is effective and binding for the lessee.

For this reason, standard rental contracts do not usually contain this type of clause. Owners often add them by hand afterwards. Although these clauses rarely appear in large real estate companies, lawyer Hänsel guesses that around 20-30 percent of private owners require such a clause. Although the condition often leads to disputes between landlords and tenants, there are almost never any legal disputes, says expert Hänsel. “The legal situation is too clear for that.”

However, renters should think twice if they really don’t want to purchase household goods insurance. Because in case of damage, the insurance covers the expenses of the destroyed belongings. The landlord bears the cost of repairing the home and, if necessary, relocates the tenant. However, if the damage is caused by an accident for which the lessor is not at fault, the renter also has no liability claims against the lessor. Ultimately, without home insurance, no one will pay the cost of damaged possessions.

The amount of damages with which the insured insure their property is very individual. The more valuable the facility, the greater the amount of damage. To get an overview of your own belongings, expert Hänsel advises: “It’s best to go into each room once and write down what furniture you have.” And further: “Treasures are often hidden inside cupboards.” to avoid disputes with the insurance company, he documents his furniture with a video camera. It is better for tenants to save video and furniture bills digitally.

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