The general rule is that the building owner is responsible for the damages to the property as consequence of a break in. Usually, the landlord’s insurance will cover the building structure, while the insurance of the renter will cover the personal properties. The landlord will file a claim to his insurance for the damage to real property. Typically the tenant cannot hold the landlord responsible for anything other than negligence.
If a renter is the victim of break-in and the landlord is unwilling to take the responsibility for the damages, do not accept it. Many landlords will try their best to shift their responsibility to the renters in order to avoid an insurance rate increase and consider the idea that the renters are responsible for the damages. The renters should read and understand the lease contract, check their local and state laws and solicit advice from a lawyer or the local tenants’ rights organization.
The following are circumstances in which tenants may be responsible for the damages from break-ins:
The terms of the lease agreement particularly shift the responsibility to the tenant.
- The failure of the tenant to take the required action according to the lease contract such as immediate securing of a police report and notification to the landlord regarding the break-in including the damages incurred.
- The negligence or action of the tenant that in some way lead to the break-in or aggravated the damages incurred.
If on the incident of break-in the burglar is caught, the court may rule to require the burglar pay restitution to the landlord and the tenant on the damages that each party sustained. However, the proceedings may be a long process depending on the burglar’s arrest and conviction and the compliance of the court order.
Therefore, it is crucial to know the terms of the lease agreement particularly regarding the responsibility of the damages to the property before any issue that may arise in the future. If you as a tenant will be held responsible according to the terms of the lease, you need to talk to the renter’s insurance agent concerning if there will be an additional insurance available that can be applied to cover you from any possible responsibility.
Ultimately, as a tenant you have to take all the necessary precautions in preventing any possible break-ins such as installation of adequate outdoor lighting, use of an effective alarm system and doing the necessary arrangements for somebody to look over the leased premises if the tenant is to be away for a while. Moreover, the tenant has to report incidents of break-ins to the proper authority and the landlord immediately.
Regardless of whether the landlord or the tenant may be responsible for the damages caused by a break-in, this experience is detrimental to both concerned. Therefore, it is necessary for the landlord and the tenant to review the details of the lease agreement concerning the terms in order to be clear on the responsibility of the parties. Additionally, having the terms of the lease properly ironed out will help the tenant and landlord to be prepared for any eventuality.