Need to find a lawyer about a sublet and renter's insurance situation
September 29, 2016 2:29 AM   Subscribe

I need help finding a lawyer. I have a complicated sublet situation, and I have questions about renter's insurance and personal liability. What kind of lawyer should I seek out? Do you have anybody whom you can recommend? I'm in San Francisco, CA.

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posted by anonymous to Law & Government (5 answers total)
I can't parse from your question whether this is a subletting problem (thus needing someone who specializes in landlord-tenant law) - in this case, San Francisco Tenant's Union, Housing Rights Committee, and SF Rent board may be good first stops for free counseling.

If your question involves some sort of theft/injury and how your insurance/liability plays into it, you'd likely need someone who specializes in personal injury law.

Regardless of which attorney you find, they should be able to assess your situation and give you thoughts as to what areas of law your situation falls under, and whether they would be able to adequately handle it. SF Bar has a lawyer referral service.
posted by Karaage at 3:05 AM on September 29, 2016

Mod note: From the OP:
"I rent an apartment in San Francisco. I sublet this apartment to a couple of other people. I want to figure out who would be held personally liable in case one of the people I'm subletting to accidentally causes expensive damage to the building. Clearly, one or all of us should have renters' insurance, but who? There are other complications to the situation as well. Obviously, I need to speak to a lawyer, but I don't know what kind of lawyer can best advise me in this situation."
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:48 AM on September 29, 2016

Landlord tenant lawyer. the bar referral service can help you find one.

A few thoughts off the bat - assuming your landlord is aware you're subletting and has approved of it, he can go after both you and your sublettor for damage to the unit. The same remains even if he doesn't know you're subletting, but he'd have a reason to also evict you on top of it.

In such a case if the damage was entirely to due to the sublettor and you ended up sued by your landlord and paid out, you'd theoretically be able to recover from your sublettor in court.

I'd have a hard time thinking of a landlord who would explicitly exclude his renter for liability for the renter's sublease - that would have to be a whole new contract.

How the insurance situation will work out depends on what sort of damage is caused - I suggest you read very closely what the coverage is on where the exclusions lie.
posted by Karaage at 6:59 AM on September 29, 2016

If you're looking for an "excuse" to kick the guy cooking meth in the bathtub out of the apartment, you have it. Landlord-tenant law varies a lot by jurisdiction, but I think it's safe to say that the landlord will come after you if he blows the building up. In order to avoid liability, you would have to have done an assignment of the lease, not a sublease.

But if this is more of a genuinely theoretical concern...assuming you still have stuff in the apartment, all of you should have renter's insurance, to avoid any issues with exclusions. It's going to be $20/mo. or less unless you're storing the Mona Lisa in there. This is basic adulting anyway (unless you're in economic dire straits), a very simple step to protect yourself, so go ahead and do it. Unfortunately you won't be able to compel your subtenant to get the insurance, but you might offer to pay the premiums (just make sure you see actual confirmation of the coverage).
posted by praemunire at 8:17 AM on September 29, 2016

When I sublet my apartment in Seattle (with the landlords permission) my renter's insurance covered damage caused by either myself or my sublettor. You should have renter's insurance, and you should call that insurance to ask them exactly what they will cover for your sublettor.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:03 PM on September 29, 2016

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