If you own a pet and rent your home, typically renters insurance is the easiest way for you to get liability coverage. It is inexpensive (typically about 80 cents per day). If your pet injures someone or damages property, it could really come in handy.

Does Renters Insurance Cover Pet Liability?
Most insurance companies include that in their coverage options. However, if your pet is excluded from liability coverage because of its breed (which is common with dogs), other insurance options may be available to supplement your renters insurance.

 

Whether you are a pet owner or not, renters insurance will protect you in a variety of incidents for which a tenant could be found liable.

 

What Does Renters Liability Insurance Cover?
It generally provides 3 types of financial coverage;

 

  1. Personal property covers the contents of your home and your personal belongings.
  2. Liability covers you and your family members from liability lawsuits, like if someone trips down your stairs for example.
  3. Additional living expenses covers any living expenses associated with temporarily living outside your residence if you home or apartment becomes unlivable due to reasons such as fire damage, weather damage, flooding etc.


Out of these, liability coverage will generally be what covers property damage or injury inflicted by your pet on others, inside or outside your residence. Liability coverage gives you financial protection against any fees associated with the incident up to your policy’s limits.

 

Consider these 2 scenarios:

Injury liability: Your dog bites a guest in your house, and it’s severe enough to send them to the hospital for stitches. In order to pay for that hospital bill, your guest files a claim through your insurance company. If you’re found liable, your insurance company will attempt to reach a settlement with the bitten house guest, who can choose to file a lawsuit if they find the settlement unacceptable. Whether the case is settled or taken to court, all associated fees will be paid under your liability insurance coverage.


Property damage liability: Your cat is roaming around outside when something spooks them and they slice up your neighbor’s expensive screen door. To pay for the damage, your neighbor files a claim through your insurance company. Although this is related to personal property rather than injury, the same process will essentially play out, ending with your insurance company covering the costs if you’re found liable.

 

Renters Insurance Pet Liability Coverage Limits
Your renters insurance company is only willing to cover your liability claims up to a certain limit. You can choose your coverage limit, but standard renters insurance liability coverage extends up to $100,000 of costs associated with legal costs and damages. Beyond that, you’ll be held financially responsible.

We recommend you choose your limit based on the likelihood that damages will happen, the potential severity of those damages and your personal risk tolerance. For example, if you own a pet fish, the associated liability risks are certainly much lower than a dog with a history of serious bites. Coverage of up to $100,000 may sound excessive (it would easily cover cat scratches or a broken screen door) but in extreme cases, it may not be enough.

One of the most common liability insurance claims is for dog bites. The average cost for a dog bite claim is about $35,000. However, in a severe dog bite incident, medical and legal fees can add up quickly and far exceed the $100,000 limit. Even seemingly harmless and well behaved pets can lead to high liability costs. For example, you could be held liable if an elderly guest is seriously injured tripping over your docile pet cat.

 

When DOESN’T Renters Liability Insurance Cover Your Pet?

 

Not all pet-related accidents will be protected by rental insurance liability coverage, nor will all pets. If damage is caused by your pet to your own personal belongings, your insurance will not cover you. For instance, if your new puppy chews up your molding and table legs, your renters insurance will not cover this damage under either liability or personal property coverage. On the other hand, if you’re a tenant and your puppy chews up your guests expensive Gucci handbag, that may be covered by your renters liability policy.

 

Pet Liability Exclusions and Sub-limits for Coverage

If you are a pet owner, you should check whether your pet’s species or breed is excluded under your liability policy. The following are examples of exclusions on a policy.

Exotic pets: Animals such as reptiles, monkeys and wolves will most likely be excluded under traditional renters insurance liability coverage.
Specific breeds of dogs: Many insurers have a list of aggressive dog breeds, such as pit bulls, that they will refuse to cover.
Dogs with a history: Dogs with a history of bite incidents could also be excluded by insurance companies.


You should also check whether there are sub limits to your coverage for particular animals. Your policy could have an overall limit of $100,000, but if your dog has a reputation for biting, your insurer could put a limit, for example $5,000, on claims that relate to your dog.

 


Options if Renters Liability Insurance Doesn’t Cover Your Pet
If your policy doesn’t cover the legal liability posed by your pet, you’re not entirely out of options. You can choose to purchase a personal umbrella policy for increased coverage.

A personal umbrella policy supplements your renters insurance policy by filling the gaps between your current personal liability protection and what you need. For instance, if your renters insurance either limits or excludes your pit bull from liability coverage, you might be able to purchase an umbrella policy that will grant or increase coverage for your pit bull. Umbrella insurance will initiate after your renters insurance liability limit is fully utilized.


In the event none of these policies work for you and your pet, then consider pet liability insurance. This is a policy specific to your pet, although fewer insurers offer this type of policy compared to renters insurance and umbrella policies.

For more information, contact Guy Williams 614-488-1101