When Do You Need Pet Liability Insurance as a Renter?
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Pet liability insurance refers to coverage provided when a renter’s pet injures someone or damages their property. A standard renters insurance policy will provide you with some protection up to your policy's limits or you can buy a standalone pet liability policy.
Learn how pet liability insurance for renters works and how you can protect yourself and your pets.
What Is Pet Liability Insurance for Renters?
Pet liability insurance is a type of insurance that provides coverage for damages or injuries caused by your pet to other people or their property. The liability portion of a renters insurance policy will provide coverage if your pet causes harm to someone or their belongings.
Also, renters insurance coverage will likely exclude certain dog breeds, especially if they have a history of biting others. For example, you may not be covered if you own any of the dog breeds listed below (but this will ultimately depend on your carrier):
- Pit bulls
- Staffordshire terriers
- German shepherds
- Presa canarios
- Great Danes
- Bull terriers
- Wolf/wolf hybrids
In addition, some renters insurance carriers may refuse to insure exotic animals such as birds, rabbits, ferrets and spiders. While often cute, guinea pigs, hamsters and other rodents may not be covered. Reptiles such as snakes, turtles and lizards may be excluded from coverage, as well.
Note: There is another form of pet insurance called pet health insurance which helps cover medical bills and associated costs similar to that of a traditional healthcare plan for a human. Do not confuse this for liability coverage.
How Does Pet Liability Insurance for Renters Work?
If a pet-related incident occurs, such as the renter’s dog chewing a neighbor’s patio furniture or their cat scratching a visitor, the injured party may seek reimbursement for their losses. The renter can then file a liability claim with their renters insurance provider to pay for the other party’s repair or medical bills. If the renter has a standalone pet liability policy, they would contact that carrier directly.
If the insurance company investigates the claim and determines it is a covered event, they would cover losses up to the policy limit. Coverage would also include legal defense fees if the claim escalates into a lawsuit.
An added benefit of having pet liability coverage is that you are still covered for accidents that happen away from your home. For example, dog liability insurance for renters is still available if your dog bites someone during a walk in the park.
Keep in mind that filing a pet-related liability claim, or any type of claim really, can result in the cost of coverage going up. As a result, if the injuries or damages are relatively minor, you may want to consider paying out of pocket instead of paying elevated rates over the long-term.
How Do I Add a Pet to My Renters Insurance?
The process for obtaining liability coverage for a pet through your renters policy will vary depending on the type of animal. For simplicity’s sake, let’s stick with dogs.
To add a dog to your renters policy, your insurance provider will require specific information, including the breed, age, weight and whether a male dog has been neutered, as well as their bite history, if applicable.
You can either accept or decline the quote provided by your insurance provider for dog coverage. If you choose to decline, you can still purchase a separate pet liability policy. If you go without coverage, you will be responsible for any liability costs resulting from your dog's actions.
What Are the Coverage Limits for Pet Liability Insurance?
The coverage limits for liability pet insurance for renters will depend on how much coverage you choose to buy. Kenneth M. Phillips, an attorney specializing in animal attack liability cases, recommends buying at least $100,000 of liability coverage and $1,000 of medical payments coverage. Also called no-fault medical coverage, medical payments coverage has lower coverage limits ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and is useful as a deterrent to prevent small claims from escalating into costly lawsuits.
This means each claim you file over the policy term will deplete your total limits, similar to withdrawing money from a bank account. After exhausting this limit, you will need to pay for claims out of pocket until you renew your policy.
If you feel you need more robust limits on your coverage, you can purchase an umbrella policy, which will extend coverage after exhausting the limits of your renters or pet liability policy. For example, if your renters policy covers losses up to $50,000 and the injured party sues you for $70,000, umbrella insurance would cover the remaining $20,000.
What Does Pet Liability for Renters Cover?
Pet liability coverage protects against damages caused by a renter's pet to third parties or their property. Specifically, it can cover:
- Bodily injury: This includes medical bills, lost wages and other damages resulting from a person being injured by the renter's pet. For example, if a renter's dog bites a neighbor, pet liability coverage can cover the medical bills and any other related expenses.
- Property damage: If a renter's cat scratches a visitor's expensive couch, pet liability insurance can cover the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged couch.
- Legal fees: If the injury or property damage claim filed by the affected party escalates into a lawsuit, then pet liability insurance covers the cost of hiring a lawyer and other legal expenses.
What Isn’t Covered?
While pet liability insurance can provide coverage for damages caused by a renter's pet, there are certain situations and damages that may not be covered by the policy. Here are some common exclusions:
- Intentional acts: Liability coverage is specifically meant for sudden accidents due to negligence. If you direct your dog to break into your neighbor’s backyard and ruin their furniture, those losses would not be covered.
- Property damage to the renter's own belongings: Your pet is your responsibility, so you are at-fault if it destroys something you own.
- Business activities: If the renter is using their rental property for business purposes, such as running a dog grooming business, any damages caused by a pet while conducting business activities may not be covered by the policy.
- Certain types of animals and breeds: These exclusions tend to only apply to your renters insurance and not a separate pet policy but this is not a hard rule. The commonly excluded dog breeds along with a list of exotic animals are listed above.