What constitutes a valid insurance claim for loss of useregarding a rental?

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What constitutes a valid insurance claim for loss of useregarding a rental?

I’ve been current on the rent but my landlord has been trying to harass me out of my rental for months. On New Year’s Day he shut off the gas to my unit (landlord pays all utilities). I had someone come over to verify no hot water and no heat. I moved into a hotel for 3 weeks. I made a claim with my insurance company for loss of use – malicious mischief – due to unit not being fit to live in. My insurer said that the claim was denied because the landlord and I have a business relationship. I sent them a copy of CA Civil Code 789.3, which states that it’s illegal for a lanlord to shut off utilities. They said that they didn’t care, the claim was still denied. What do you think?

Asked on April 23, 2011 under Insurance Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Not everything that is illegal is covered by insurance. Insurance is a contract; the losses which are covered and for which the insurer will pay are those set out in the policy. You need to look to the policy to see what losses are covered, and there is very good chance that this one is not.

However, you are correct that a landlord may not shut off a tenant's heat or water, and may not evict a tenant in any fashion but through the courts, under the law, for a legally allowable reason (e.g. nonpayment of rent; lease violation). If you landlord shut off your utilities, you may be able to sue him for your costs or losses (you could probably proceed in small claims court, to minimize your expenditure). So the landlord, not the insurer, may be the proper source of compensation. Good luck.


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