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Why does my landlord want me to have liability insurance?

A potential landlord has asked you if you have private liability insurance. You don’t as you’re not really sure what it is, why you need it or if it’s worth getting at all. Read on to be convinced!
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Maybe to get an apartment in your home country, it’s enough to have an employment contract and a couple of references from previous landlords, or a note about how nice you are from your mum. This will not cut it with a German landlord, no matter how special your mum thinks you are. Aside from the plethora of other documents you need – your passport or ID, last three months’ pay slips, previous address registration, a credit rating report and a Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (trips off the tongue, that one) – a German landlord may also expect you to have private liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung).

What is private liability insurance?

Private liability insurance covers you, your family and a small pet if damage is caused to someone else or their property. And, as there’s no ceiling on the level of damages someone can be awarded in Germany, even aside from the landlord issue, it’s a very useful thing to have.

Why do landlords care if I have it or not?

Let’s say you’re getting darling Gunther ready for school. You’re busy making him a classic German packed lunch of Mett, raw onions and gherkins – yummy, yummy, I got love in my tummy - and, by the time you turn around, you see that he has managed to turn himself into the jammy version of a Pollock painting. Oh Gunther, you little rascal. You send him to wash up while you get the bikes out of the Fahrradkeller. You’re running pretty late at this stage, so you fail to notice that sweet Gunther has left the taps running before you both pedal off into the misty German morning.

When you get back, you just have time to register that your sofa has floated by before there’s an angry knocking at the door. It’s Herr Müller from downstairs; seems his sofa is floating too, and he strongly prefers the non-floaty version. Thanks to dear Gunther’s “senior moment”, the costs of replacing the furniture and appliances and drying out the walls, ceilings and floors are going to be astronomical and you will have to foot the bill unless you have Haftpflichtversicherung. If you’re not insured and can’t pay for the damages yourself, the landlord will not be able to recover his expenses. So, you can see why your landlord might not be best pleased if you don’t have it.

Can my landlord force me to get liability insurance?

Nope, but he may not be overly inclined to rent you his charming, fully furnished apartment with an Einbauküche either. It can be hard enough to find an apartment in Germany without being automatically ruled out as a candidate because you don’t have this insurance.

How will my landlord know if I’ve got liability insurance?

You can just tell him you do - or tick the box on the application form confirming that you do (sneaky, sneaky) - but it’s not really that easy to pull the wool over a German’s eyes. Most likely, your landlord will ask for a copy of your Haftpflichtversicherung policy. 

In fact, with Coya, you can buy a policy in less than five minutes and download it directly to your device, so you could be getting insured and increasing your chances of being accepted while everyone else is wondering where their pot plants will look best. Genius. 

So, Haftpflichtversicherung really is rather important to landlords? 

In a word, yes. You might not even be able to find a landlord without having it. Landlords aren’t in the rental business for the good of their health - they like making money, not paying it out for the various costly mistakes you make. Even if you don’t have a Gunther, you’re still only human and accidents can happen - like forgetting to turn off the stove when leaving the house and burning down half the building, or drilling into the wall, hitting a bunch of cables, effectively causing a mini-inferno. In both cases, Haftpflichtversicherung would have you covered, saving you from being homeless and a lifetime of debt. 

Does anyone else care if I have liability insurance?

Well, you should. Your neighbour, Herr Müller, will also be rather relieved when dearest Gunther rides his bike into the back of his shiny new BMW causing it not to be so shiny any more... Since little Gunther appears to be rather accident-prone, pretty much everyone in the world that you come into contact with will appreciate the fact that you have Haftpflichtversicherung, as any damages caused by you, him, other members of your family or your pet cat or hamster will be covered. Also, Germans probably won’t date you if you don’t have it.

So, to sum up - if you don’t have Haftpflichtversicherung, your landlord, neighbours, random strangers on the street and even your friends can sue you for any damages caused by you and yours (accidental or not). If you have Haftpflichtversicherung, you’re covered. If want to approach the task of getting Haftpflichtversicherung like a German you compare at least the Top 5 personal liability insurances. Make sure you know what coverage a decent private liability insurance in Germany includes. A Haftpflichtversicherung only costs around €5 a month and think how much fun Gunther can have with those matches and that petrol can he’s just brought home...

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Written by Linda O'Grady, co-author of From the Bürgeramt to the Bedroom

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