Is a landlord liable for spoiled food if refrigerator fails?

2 Replies

This is hypothetical question posted to me by an applicant.

The discussion was about renters insurance, and the applicant asked if the refrigerator fails - either because there is a power outage or if the refrigerator stopped working - and food got spoiled, who pays for the damages?

I don't think renter's insurance would cover it.  I believe renters insurance covers loss from certain peril such as theft, storm, fire etc...a broken refrigerator is probably not cover although I could be wrong...on the other hand, if it's a hurricane that caused the power outage, may be?  But I would assume if your deductible is $250 and you lose $200 of food, why bother?  Of course, they may have a dozen of expensive caviar or vintage wines that would go bad quickly.

Now if the fridge is broken, I am thinking being in South Florida, if it happens on a Wednesday evening, I may not be able to call in an appliance man until Thursday.  As with many appliances nowaday, the repair may actually be more than a new one.  Ordering a new one and having it delivered may be Friday or Saturday, by that time 3 days have gone by and everything is spoiled.  Would you pay for the damages if it's caused by your failed appliances?  Or do you have something in your lease to cover this?

I don't know what to make about this question.  Is this applicant just curious or is this an indication of a high maintenance tenant?

LL is not responsible for the contents of a refrigerator unless you were clearly negligent. Normal events such as a power outage are not your fault. In the scenario you gave, you are not liable as long as you make good faith efforts to get the refrigerator repaired in a reasonable time frame.

I have sometimes chosen to give tenants a rent credit towards things like spoiled food that weren't anyone's fault. But that's just a goodwill gesture, not a liability issue.

@Sam Leon   I'll only speak to what coverage this could fall under.  You are right on with your analysis.

Some renters policies may have coverage for "Spoilage", but only if triggered by a covered peril.  Hurricane winds take out the electrical service to the house, chances are you have a covered claim. But, as you referenced, the deductible will probably be greater than the loss amount.

"Equipment Failure" is a coverage on commercial policies, but not on a renters policy.