A truly traumatic turn of events is a situation in which a tenant dies alone in rental unit and the remains aren’t found for an extended period of time. This type of situation technically is referred to as an unattended death or an undiscovered death. In some case, not just days but weeks or even months can pass before a body is discovered. Due to the nature of an unattended death, and the consequences of the human decomposition process, the state of affairs at a residence following a death that goes undiscovered for an extended period of time can fairly be called catastrophic. Unattended death cleaning is one of the most challenging endeavors imaginable. An important question surrounding remediating this type of situation is whether a renter’s insurance policy will pay for unattended death cleanup.
Coverage of a Standard Renter’s Insurance Policy
The reality is that when a tenant seeks renter’s insurance, unattended death cleanup is not going to be on that person’s radar. Another fact is that the typical tenant gives very little consideration to the terms and conditions of a renter’s insurance policy. A tenant simply wants to make sure that his or her personal possessions are covered in the event something goes awry.
The important point to remember is that no renter’s insurance policy in the United States is going to clearly, automatically include a provision that explicitly provides coverage for unattended death cleanup. Standard coverage in a renter’s insurance policy covers certain property damage and loss that includes:
- Natural disaster (wind, fire, rain, hail)
- Accidental damage to property
Keep in mind that not all natural disasters are covered under the terms of a standard renter’s insurance policy. Earthquakes and floods are not likely to be covered by a typical renter’s insurance policy. Although this coverage can be obtained, a tenant would need to seek out supplemental insurance to do so.
Merely because a renter’s insurance policy doesn’t explicitly state unattended death cleanup is covered doesn’t mean that an insurance company might end up responsible for paying for this type of critical remediation. The standard terms and conditions of a specific renter’s insurance policy might be open to interpretation to the point that unattended death reasonably might be considered to be covered.
The problem is when there is a debate over the meaning of terms and conditions of a renter’s insurance policy, court litigation may be required. Lawsuits can take many months or even years. Thus, whilst a policy may end up being determined to cover unattended death cleanup, that determination may be a long, long time in coming.
If for some reason a tenant is particularly concerned about having unattended death cleanup coverage specifically spelled out in a renter’s insurance policy, an insurer might be able and willing to add a rider to a standard policy making this coverage clearly available. This would require something additional in the form of premium cost. However, the cost is not likely to be significant because the odds of an unattended death are not high.
Renter’s Insurance Policy Exclusions
In addition to ascertaining what specifically is covered via a renter’s insurance policy, attention must also be paid to the exclusion provisions. For example, a renter’s insurance policy might have a microorganism, seepage, or biohazard exclusion which would preclude coverage for an unattended death cleanup. Exclusions must be closely examined when it comes to accurate ascertain the nature and extent of coverage for any type of insurance policy, including renter’s insurance.
How Renter’s Insurance Comes Into Play
A renter’s insurance policy is apt to come into play following the unattended death of a tenant when the owner of the property is seeking a means to pay for the remediation of the residence. A landlord understandably is going to be interested in ascertaining if there is a mechanism through which the tenant’s estate might have assets to cover the costs of unattended death cleanup. In addition, a landlord is going to want to explore whether there might be insurance coverage to address the costs associated with unattended death cleanup.
If a renter’s insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage for unattended death cleanup, the landlord might have insurance coverage on the property that will assist in this regard, at least to some degree. A property insurance policy a landlord is apt to have on rental premises is apt to have broader coverage than what is found in a typical standard renter’s insurance policy.
In the final analysis, when it comes to the unattended death at a leased residence, odds are that a renter’s insurance policy is not going to provide undiscovered death cleanup coverage. With that said, and with the prospect of other insurance possibly being available to provide coverage, a landlord is wise to connect with an unattended death cleaning company that accepts different types of payment, including insurance.