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Pet Liability Insurance for Renters: Why Do You Need It, What Does It Cover?

Pet Liability Insurance for Renters
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updated: June 9, 2024

Renters insurance policies typically include personal liability coverage. If your pets (or you) damage others’ property or cause injury, the coverage helps pay for repairs, medical and rehabilitation bills, and other related expenses.

You may also want to consider supplemental pet liability insurance for certain types of pets. Depending on your insurance company, it may be available as an add-on coverage to your renters insurance policy or as a separate policy altogether.

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Why do you need pet liability insurance?

Even well-behaved and well-trained pets have minds of their own, which sometimes can lead them to costly misadventures, leaving a pet owner liable for property damage or bodily injuries. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average dog bite claim cost $64,555 in 2022. That’s money a pet owner could be held responsible for.

Property damage may also have financial ramifications. Imagine your dog scratches up the kitchen cabinetry in your rented home, or your aging cat doesn’t get to the litter box and makes a real mess of your apartment’s carpeting. If the damage is substantial, you could be on the hook for at least some of the repair, cleaning, or replacement costs—even if you paid a pet deposit as part of your lease agreement.

This is where liability insurance comes to the rescue.

Renters insurance and pet liability coverage

The typical renters insurance policy includes three kinds of coverage:

  • Contents coverage. Reimburses you if your personal property (clothing, electronics, furniture, etc.) is destroyed in a fire or other catastrophic event.
  • Liability coverage. Helps pay if you’re held responsible for someone’s injury or property damage.
  • Additional living expense coverage. Reimburses you for at least some of the costs you’d incur if you had to move out of your rented home temporarily due to a fire or other catastrophic event.

Your liability coverage comes into play if your pet harms someone outside your household or damages property that doesn’t belong to you. Such an incident does not have to happen in your rented home or on the property. Liability coverage typically protects you wherever you and your pet roam.

Liability coverage has a limit, which is the maximum amount your insurer will pay for a covered incident. According to State Farm, the typical limit is $100,000. The policy contract may specify a lower limit for pet incidents and also have some exclusions, which we’ll discuss later.

How does renters insurance cover pet liability?

Here’s an example of how renters insurance might work to cover a pet liability.

While you have the front door propped open to bring in groceries, your one-year-old schnauzer senses the opportunity of a lifetime. He’s halfway across the yard and gaining speed before you even realize he’s gone. He slows down once he makes it to the busy sidewalk. Then, in a moment of confusion combined with youthful canine exuberance, he bites a pedestrian in the calf.

You’re finally able to wrangle him, and you speak to the victim. Her injury doesn’t seem too significant, and fortunately, she’s very understanding—no hard feelings. Still, she does go to the hospital for treatment. This results in a $2,000 bill, for which you’re responsible.

You file a claim with your renter’s insurance company. Because the claim amount is well below your liability limit, the insurer fully reimburses the victim for her hospital bills.

By no means should you assume that your policy will protect you in every situation. As insurer Progressive notes, “In most instances, renters insurance covers dog bites up to your policy’s limits as a part of bodily injury liability coverage. However, every policy will have different rules, including some restrictions on certain dog breeds.”

What if renters insurance doesn’t cover your pet?

Fairly or not, many insurers exclude some dog breeds. There’s no industry-standard list, but you might expect your insurer not to cover the following:

  • Pit bulls.
  • Staffordshire terriers.
  • Doberman pinschers.
  • Rottweilers.
  • German shepherds.
  • Chows.
  • Great Danes.
  • Presa Canarios.
  • Akitas.
  • Alaskan malamutes.
  • Siberian huskies.
  • Wolf-dog hybrids.

Renters policies may also exclude damage or injuries caused by exotic pets. These can include snakes, large cats, reptiles, primates, ferrets, bears, and wolves. From a financial-protection perspective, the good news is that you have options.

Benefits of supplemental pet liability insurance

Supplemental pet liability insurance can provide the coverage you need if your pet is excluded by your renters policy. Your insurer may offer add-on coverage to your main policy, or it might provide pet liability as a separate policy. You even might have to buy the coverage from a separate company. Of course, you’ll need to budget a little more for it.

How much does pet liability insurance cost?

Renters insurance—which, again, includes liability coverage that applies to pet incidents—costs on average $173 per year (about $14 per month) in 2024. And keep in mind that a renters policy provides not only liability coverage for you and your pets, but coverage for your personal belongings and any additional living expenses should you have to vacate your home temporarily.

The cost of a supplemental pet liability insurance policy varies by company. Your animal type and breed, and policy limit, will also affect the cost. A recent article by MarketWatch states that coverage can range from as little as $10 per month to $1,000 per year.

We couldn’t find any state or municipality that requires pet owners to have liability insurance. However, when considering adopting a pet, be sure to take some time to understand the laws where you live. Some municipalities, for instance, prohibit ownership of certain dog breeds.

Of course, the law and a lease agreement can differ, so be sure to discuss any pet-related clauses in the lease agreement with your landlord. There may be restrictions, specific insurance requirements, or a mandated deposit.

A lease agreement could include any of the following:

  • Restrictions on certain breeds.
  • Restrictions on certain pet types.
  • Limitations on a pet’s weight.
  • A pet deposit requirement.
  • A pet prohibition (note that service animals must be allowed under federal law).

The Humane Society of the United States offers an information page and tips for renters with pets. It’s worth checking out.

Tips for buying pet liability insurance

Here are three things to do when shopping for pet liability insurance.

Be honest with your insurer

Renters insurance quotes typically require you to provide information about your pet, including whatever is known about its breed. Your insurer will take a dim view of any falsification of this information (perhaps discovered when you file a claim.) It’ll likely result in the cancellation of your policy and may even hurt your chances of getting insured in the future.

Ask your insurer about exceptions

If your renters insurance policy excludes your pet’s breed, ask the insurer if it offers exceptions. Some companies may be willing to evaluate pets on a case-by-case basis, looking at factors such as bite history and behavioral training.

Consult with an agent

You can lean on an expert when shopping for renters insurance. Local, independent agents are licensed professionals who typically represent multiple insurance companies. They can shop around on your behalf and find you the coverage you need.

What about pet insurance?

Avoid confusing pet liability insurance with pet insurance. The former provides financial protection in the event your pet injures someone or damages their property. The latter helps reimburse your expenses if your pet needs veterinary care. Think of it as health insurance for your pet.

Pet insurance is becoming increasingly popular as veterinary costs rise. Some companies offer it.

TIME stamp: Pet owners should consider liability coverage

Even the best-behaved pets can act unpredictably. Such behavior can lead to property damage or injuries for which you as the pet owner are responsible. If you have renters insurance, your policy likely includes liability coverage, which can help you pay for repairs, medical bills, and other expenses arising from these types of incidents.

If you own certain dog breeds or exotic animals, you may need to look into supplemental pet liability insurance to ensure the financial protection you need.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Is pet liability insurance required for renters?

We couldn’t find any laws requiring renters to have pet liability insurance. However, laws are always being passed, so pet owners should double-check with their local government to understand any requirements.

On the other hand, a landlord may require you to obtain renters insurance—which typically includes liability for pets—as part of the lease agreement. Make sure you read it carefully.

Does pet insurance include pet liability coverage?

No. Pet insurance only covers costs related to your pet’s veterinary care.

What does pet liability insurance cover?

Pet liability insurance covers costs associated with property damage or bodily injury caused by your pet to anyone who is not a member of your household.

Can I get liability insurance for multiple pets?

Your renters insurance liability coverage should cover incidents up to their limit regardless of the number of pets involved. If you’re purchasing supplemental pet liability insurance, contact your policy provider to understand how coverage is applied when you have multiple pets.

How do I file a pet liability insurance claim?

Whether your pet is covered by your renters insurance policy or a supplemental pet liability insurance policy, contact your insurance company or an agent to understand how to file a claim.

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