It seems every December we hear stories of families who suffer the heartbreak of theft of Christmas gifts – and more – from their homes. Although nothing can make up for the shock of being robbed, some victims, usually homeowners, have insurance to make up for part or all of the financial loss. Too often though, especially for renters, there is no insurance to cover the loss. Recently, I heard a report on WJCT, the local National Public Radio affiliate, that somebody is trying to do something about that. And, that somebody is right here at the Terrell • Hogan Law Firm, paralegal Audrey Gibson.
I asked Audrey about her efforts. In addition to her work at the law firm, she is a member of the Florida Senate, and she has filed legislation to address this problem for the many renters in Florida. She pointed out that sometimes consumers take small details for granted until something unexpected happens. Protecting against loss through renters insurance is one of those small details. In almost all cases, if something happens to a home or apartment that you are renting, your personal belongings will not be covered unless you have obtained renters insurance. This fact may be buried somewhere in the lease agreement, and there may be renters insurance pamphlets in the rental office, but unless you have obtained renters insurance yourself, you are not protected against personal loss.
Legislation filed by Senator Gibson, SB 422, and HB 331 by Representative Reggie Fullwood, would require better disclosure to renters about protecting their personal property in the event of an adverse event. The bill requires all lease agreements to specify whether or not renters insurance is required and if it is not required, the lease must include language that advises that personal contents are not covered without renters insurance, and to provide a line to be initialed by the potential tenant indicating that the subject of renters insurance has been discussed before signing the lease.
SB 422 offers help for protecting valuables families spend years to accumulate and hard earned money to acquire. With the down economy, many have turned to renting to secure housing for themselves and their families. Protecting their interests from unforeseen losses is certainly a step the Florida Legislature can take. And this problem is not limited to theft, for example consumer reporter Ken Amaro identified a flood loss where the renter was not covered by renters insurance and lost everything. Leak damaged apartment leaves tenant soaked.
At Terrell • Hogan, protecting families from unforeseen losses is what we do every day. We represent the injured as they seek justice, but we also know that it’s best to try to find ways to prevent injury and loss before they happen. I commend Audrey for this effort.