Having a pet is a mostly joyful experience, but it can turn into an expensive one if your pet injures someone or damages their property. If you have renters insurance, the liability coverage in your policy may cover injuries or damage your pet causes, but this depends on your insurance company and the type of pet you have. Here are key things to know about how renters insurance covers pet liability.
- The liability coverage in renters insurance typically covers the costs of injuries and property damage your pet causes to other people, but there are exceptions.
- Standard renters insurance is adequate for most pet owners, but some companies place restrictions on certain dog breeds.
- The average cost of a dog liability claim in the U.S. was nearly $65,000 in 2022.
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Does renters insurance include pet liability coverage?
The liability coverage in most renters insurance policies extends to injuries and/or property damage your pet causes to others, but it’s important to check your policy for limits or exclusions.
Here’s a look at common pet liability restrictions in renters insurance:
- Some companies place sublimits on pet-caused damage or injuries, such as those that may result from a dog bite. For example, a policy with a $100,000 liability limit may cap coverage for pet liability claims at a lower amount, such as $25,000.
- A few companies don’t insure renters with certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers, as pets.
- Some companies may require you to sign a waiver exempting it from covering your pet for liability if your dog’s breed is considered dangerous or your dog has a bite history.
- Many companies exclude or limit coverage for exotic pets and farm animals.
When you contact companies for renters insurance quotes, they typically ask about any pets in your home.
It’s generally a bad idea to withhold information about your pets from an insurance company or lie about them in any way. Doing so could jeopardize your ability to collect an insurance payment if you ever need to file a claim.
If you already have renters insurance when you get a pet, it’s best to contact your insurance company to find out if the pet is subject to any liability restrictions. If so, it may be time to shop for a new renters insurance provider.
Pet liability insurance vs. pet insurance
It’s also important to understand the difference between liability coverage for your pet and pet insurance.
Pet insurance typically refers to insurance that pays for veterinary care for your dog, cat or other pet. Many insurance companies offer pet insurance as an optional add-on to renters insurance, often through a separate provider.
If you purchase pet insurance from your renters insurance company, you should still make sure your renters insurance covers pet liability.
Does renters insurance cover pet damage?
Assuming your policy does not exclude your pet, the liability coverage in renters insurance generally also covers damage your pet causes to your unit or while you are away from your home.
In this respect, the liability coverage in renters insurance generally covers your pet in the same way as it covers you and others in your household.
If you, your pet or anyone else in your household accidentally causes structural damage to your rental unit, your renters insurance typically covers your landlord’s repair bills.
However, renters liability does not cover damage your pet causes to your own possessions, or personal property.
Renters liability generally does cover property damage you, your pet or others in your home may cause when you’re away from home. For example, if you, your dog or your child damage a friend’s valuables while visiting their home, your renters insurance is likely to cover the damage.
What if my renters insurance company excludes pet liability?
If your current renters insurance policy or a company you contact for a quote won’t cover liability for your pet, it’s best to shop around for a company that will.
Renters insurance companies have different policies on the types of pets they cover or exclude. Just be sure to mention your pet upfront when you request a quote.
If no insurers are willing to accept your pet, you may have to accept a renters insurance policy with a pet exclusion and purchase standalone pet liability insurance.
Standalone pet liability is available from specialty companies such as Xinsurance and Dean Insurance Agency.
If you have to settle for standalone pet liability insurance, check the license status of the agency that sells the policy on your state insurance commissioner’s website.
Companies that offer standalone pet liability insurance should be licensed in your state as either an admitted company or surplus lines broker. If the company has a history of violations or no license records at all, move on to a different company.
How much renters liability insurance do I need for my pet?
Many renters insurance policies offer a default liability limit of $100,000, and this is the minimum amount to consider for your general liability needs, including pet liability.
The average cost of dog-liability claims in 2022 was $64,555 nationwide and more than $78,000 in California and Florida, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The organization attributes the high value of dog-liability claims to the fact that many of these claims include the costs of treating injuries that occur when dogs knock down children, cyclists or elderly individuals.
If the costs of treating injuries or repairing damage your pet causes exceeds your liability limit, your savings or other assets may be seized to cover the shortfall.
If you have a high net worth and/or earn a high salary, you should consider a higher liability limit and/or an umbrella insurance policy for additional financial protection.
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