The liability portion of your renters insurance policy covers damage and injuries your pet — be it cat, dog or parakeet — may cause to other people. For example, if your dog bites someone, your renters policy should cover medical bills and legal fees that result from it.
However, the claim payout limit that comes with your renters insurance by default may not be enough to cover these costs. Also, some insurers will not cover certain dog breeds at all. Depending on the situation, you'll either want to look for a canine liability policy or an umbrella policy.
Does renters insurance cover pet damage?
A standard renters insurance policy usually covers pet liability. This means that if your dog attacks someone, your renters insurance will cover the medical bills and legal fees tied to the attack, up to your policy's limits.
Standard renters insurance comes with $100,000 in liability protection. However, some states exclude pets from liability coverage, and some insurers exclude coverage for specific breeds of dog. Keep this in mind when you compare quotes for renters insurance.
Pet liability insurance exclusions
A key point to remember is that the pet liability portion of renters insurance only covers damage your pet does to other people or their property. If your cat destroys your favorite chair or claws you, renters insurance will not cover it.
Another fine point is the source of the damage done. If your dog knocks over your TV, renters insurance will not cover it. However, if the TV getting knocked over results in a short circuit that starts an electrical fire, your renters policy should cover it. In most instances, damage due to fire is covered under renters insurance.
Also keep in mind that there is a difference between pet liability insurance and pet insurance. If your dog is sick or injured, renters insurance will not pay for veterinarian costs. You need to have pet insurance for that.
Do I need renters insurance as a pet owner?
Most landlords require tenants to have renters insurance as part of a rental agreement, whether you have a pet or not. However, even if you are not required to have it, there are many good reasons to buy renters insurance if you're a pet owner.
It protects you from serious costs
Pet liability insurance covers the high costs of medical expenses and legal proceedings in the event of a pet attack. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog in the U.S. every year, and 800,000 of those bites require medical attention. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost of a dog bite claim in 2020 was $50,425.
Furthermore, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that around 750 homes each year suffer a fire started by a pet. Having renters insurance helps make sure that you're not paying these costs out of your own pocket.
It protects you away from home
Pet liability coverage isn't just for your rental home. If your pet hurts someone while you're out for a walk, renters insurance still covers you.
Do I have enough pet liability coverage?
For most people, a standard renters insurance policy is adequate. If you own certain dog breeds, though, you may need more.
While many insurers, such as State Farm, Nationwide and USAA, do not take dog breed into account when underwriting renters insurance policies, some insurers consider certain breeds to be high-risk, including:
- Alaskan Malamute
- Chow Chow
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Pit bull
- Siberian Husky
- Wolf hybrid
If your renters insurance policy has restricted limits of coverage due to your dog's breed, or just outright excludes it, you should consider canine liability insurance. Canine liability insurance is a policy that provides coverage in the event of damages or injuries to others, much like renters insurance. However, canine liability insurance is a policy you buy separately from renters insurance. Canine liability insurance can be difficult to find, so you may have to do some hunting.
If you feel that your liability coverage limits are too low, consider an umbrella policy. Umbrella insurance is an add-on to your renters insurance to supplement your current liability claim limits. Umbrella policies are often reasonably priced, even if you want high limits. Just make sure the umbrella policy you're looking at doesn't exclude pet damages as well.
Both canine liability insurance and umbrella policies usually offer similar coverage. Which one you choose depends on your needs. If you aren't able to get your pet covered under a renters insurance policy, get canine liability insurance. If your renters insurance has restrictions on pet damage, you should look at an appropriate umbrella policy.
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