Q My landlord sent me a notice stating that when I sign my next lease renewal I must provide proof of renter's insurance and that I must have certain minimum limits on personal property ($20,000) and personal liability ($100,000). The landlord must also be named as secondary insured. Is this requirement legal? What implications does it have for me in the event of a claim or lawsuit?

A Property manager Griswold replies:

The landlord can legally require you to provide proof of renter's insurance as a condition of your lease. Your landlord can also specify the minimum amount of coverage and require that the legal owner of the property and the property manager be named as an additional insured. Not all renter's insurance policies are the same, but most do not charge extra for providing the certificate of insurance with the additional insureds listed. Of course, you do not have to rent from this particular landlord and will probably have no trouble finding another property where the landlord is not so strict about this requirement.

While many landlords include provisions in their lease cautioning the tenant about some of the perils and risks associated with not having insurance, few actually refuse to rent solely on this basis. You seem to be resistant to having renter's insurance, but I would encourage you to look at the benefits. For example, in the event of theft or damage to your personal property, or even a personal injury claim by one of your guests, your renter's insurance could provide coverage. I have also seen situations where a tenant accidentally started a fire in his unit and was held responsible for all of the damage to the building and the other tenants' property.

Landlords' attorney Smith replies:

I am not aware of any law that prohibits landlords from making it a requirement that their tenants acquire renter's insurance. However, it is rare to make the insurance mandatory in residential leasing. The problem is that it is difficult to enforce the insurance requirement and much administration is required to monitor the payment of premiums and claims. That's why most residential management companies include a lease clause that strongly advises that the tenant obtain renter's insurance and warns of the possible hazards and misfortunes that could occur while in possession of the rental.

I live in an apartment building. My neighbors underneath me rent but also work out of their apartment and seem to have the mind-set that I have to be quiet because they are working, which I find absurd. Who has what rights?

Tenants' attorney Kellman replies:

How quiet is quiet enough? Sound is something we must tolerate to some level in a modern society. The level of sound we must endure varies with the type of home we live in and its location.

It is generally understood that in multifamily housing, there will be some unavoidable sounds that are a natural consequence of that type of living environment. Daytime will also be noisier than at night. Normal family living sounds are tolerated while excessive sounds are not.

Problems occur when the level of those sounds exceed what is expected for that building and area. Some people are hypersensitive to sound and think anything they hear is unacceptable. For these people, apartment living can be difficult.

Your downstairs neighbors have chosen to work during the day in their apartment, which is primarily meant for living, not working. If that's why they need quiet, they should consider renting a separate space that meets those needs. If the sounds you make are not excessive and are from the normal use of your apartment, then their demands for extra quiet during the day seem to be unreasonable. Also, you might want to check to see if there are any local ordinances that prohibit operating a business from a residence.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold and San Diego lawyers Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenants Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords. E-mail your questions to Griswold at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com. Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

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