Insuring Justice: Racial Bias in Insurance Regulations
55 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2022
Date Written: February 22, 2022
Most landlords do not carry liability insurance, which means that most residents have little chance of recovery after being harmed by dangerous housing conditions. More disabling injuries occur in homes than in workplaces and motor vehicles combined. These risks disproportionately affect low-income, minority tenants. Because state laws do not require landlords to carry liability insurance, property owners reap the financial benefits of the long-term rental housing market while passing the risk of injury and cost of harm to their tenants. In contrast, there is a growing trend among state and local jurisdictions to require hosts on platforms like Airbnb to assume the risk of harm and carry liability insurance as a prerequisite to participate in the short-term rental market. Incongruously, a temporary resident who stays in a property for twenty-nine days has greater protection in many jurisdictions than a long-term tenant who resides at the same property for more than a month.
Analyzing racial bias in insurance regulations and juxtaposing statutory approaches to risk allocation, this Article posits that liability insurance coverage is properly understood as an access to justice issue that negatively affects the health of minority long-term renters. For long-term tenants who experience personal injury or property damage, prevailing in a case against a property owner often kickstarts a time-consuming and expensive process that fails to provide relief. This Article argues that mandated liability coverage aligns protections for long-term rental housing with those already in place for short-term rentals, affording permanent residents the same degree of protection as temporary visitors.
Keywords: property law, landlord and tenant law, insurance law
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