In Trinity Universal Insurance Co. v. Corrine Cook (Division 3, May 17, 2012), the Court of Appeals made clear that general rule, and the rule in Washington, is that a “tenant is a coinsured with her landlord under the landlord’s fire insurance policy, absent a specific provision in the rental agreement or lease to the contrary.” Accordingly, because the tenant is a coinsured, the landlord’s insurance company cannot recover from the tenant on a subrogation claim.
While there may have been some ambiguity in prior cases, the Court here confirmed that the tenant is a coinsured not just for damage to her own apartment, but for the whole of the landlord’s policy for the building.
Here, the tenant’s husband accidentally burned down a large portion of the apartment building by improperly disposing of a cigarette. The tenant’s lease, however, contained no express or implied provision that the tenant would not be covered by the landlord’s insurance policy. So the presumption is that the tenant was covered.
There was a slight wrinkle in this case since the tenant’s husband, not the tenant, is the person who burned down the apartment. The insurance company argued that since the husband was not on the lease, he was not a coinsured under the policy and it could pursue subrogation against him. Well, the Court made quick work of that argument with a few references to community obligations and the laws of marriage. And that’s that.