Q- I recently moved into an affordable HUD senior building. The very last item presented to me, after I had paid my deposit, in this long 500-page+ process, was a requirement to "obtain $100,000 in rental insurance". My response was, "are you kidding me? The sum total of everything I’ve owned In My Life wouldn’t add up to $100K If you had told me about this at first, I would have moved elsewhere!" I have 30 days to fulfill the requirements of this extortion, or I have to forfeit the apartment and start all over. Is it legal?

A- Thanks for your question! California law does not require renters to purchase their own renters insurance and nothing prohibits a landlord from making it a mandatory provision of the lease. If this is a requirement in your upcoming lease, unfortunately, you will need to abide by the terms of the lease.  I know you are frustrated, but this is actually a fairly common practice by landlords, since renters insurance can protect both the tenant and landlord.

According the California Department of Consumer Affairs website, renter’s insurance protects the tenant’s personal property from losses caused by fire or theft. It also protects a tenant against liability or legal responsibility, for many claims or lawsuits filed by the landlord or others alleging that the tenant has negligently injured another person or damaged the person’s property. Carelessly causing a fire that destroys the rental unit or another tenant’s property is an example of negligence for which you could be held legally responsible.

Even though a 100,000 policy would more than cover your personal belongings, if there were major structural damages that arose from your negligence, you could be required to pay for the losses that the landlord or any other tenant suffers. Renter’s insurance would pay the other party on your behalf for some or all of these losses. For that reason, it’s often a good idea to purchase renter’s insurance.

For more information on tenants’ rights, you may want to look at a book we have at the law library called California Tenants Rights published by Nolo Press.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.