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Pet liability insurance for renters
Most renters insurance policies include pet liability, which covers the cost of medical bills or reimbursement if one of your pets injures someone or damages their property. It will also cover your legal fees if they sue you for damages.
The most common pet-related liability claims are for:
- Dog bites
- Carpet damage (from being chewed up or urinated on)
- Scratches on doors
How much coverage do I need for my dog?
Of the three pet liability claims listed above, dog bites are by far the most expensive. In 2019, the average cost for dog bite claims was $44,760, but more serious bites (which usually come from larger breeds) can exceed $100,000.
Standard renters insurance policies offer $100,000 in personal liability coverage. If you’re found liable for a dog bite and have to pay more than that, you’ll be responsible for covering the rest out of your own pocket.
This means that if you have a large dog, you should consider purchasing additional liability coverage (i.e. $200,000 to $300,000 in total).
Limitations on renters insurance pet liability coverage
Liability coverage for pets can be a little tricky. Some insurers either specifically exclude animal bites from their policies, or place limits on how much they will pay out for them. For example, a policy that normally offers $300,000 of liability coverage might have a $25,000 limit on injuries caused by your dog.
To be sure you’re fully covered, check your policy’s terms or speak with an insurance agent. If you need more coverage, you may be able to add it to your plan with an addition called a rider.
Insurers don’t cover all dog breeds
Although any dog can bite, some breeds are considered higher-risk than others, either because they tend to be more temperamental or because they’re just plain bigger (which makes their bites more dangerous).
For this reason, many insurers refuse to provide coverage to people who the following breeds. (Note that pit bulls and rottweilers are the most common exclusions.)
Commonly excluded breeds
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Belgian Malinois
- Chow Chows
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- Pit Bulls
- Presa Canarios
- Rhodesian Ridgebacks
- Siberian Huskies
- Staffordshire Terriers
If you’re not sure whether your breed is covered, ask your insurer. You should also tell them if your dog has bitten anyone in the past. (Be honest — if your provider discovers you lied about something, they might cancel your plan later.)
Insurance options if renters insurance doesn’t cover your dog
Not all insurers ask about your dog when you get a renters insurance quote on their website. If your provider doesn’t ask about your dog, you may be able to avoid the issue entirely if you own a breed that’s not usually covered.
However, you still might have to disclose your dog ownership later in the process (e.g. if you have to make a phone call to finalize your policy). For a list of providers that are committed to providing coverage to commonly excluded breeds, see our guide on renters insurance for pit bulls.
Insurers that do not ask about dog breed
- GEICO: Does not ask whether you have a dog.
- State Farm: Does not ask whether you have a dog.
- Nationwide: Does not ask whether you have a dog.
- Lemonade: Asks whether you have a dog, but doesn’t ask about breed or bite history.
(Note that GEICO doesn’t directly provide renters insurance, but they partner with insurers that do, and you can get a renters insurance quote from GEICO’s website. Read our review of GEICO’s renters insurance for more info.)
Insurers that ask about dog breed
- Progressive: Asks what breeds of dog you have.
- Midvale: Asks what breeds of dog you have.
- Allstate: Asks 1) how many dogs you have, and 2) what their breeds are.
- Farmers: Asks 1) whether you have dogs, 2) what breeds they are, and 3) whether they have a bite history.
- Liberty Mutual: Asks 1) how many dogs you have, 2) what breeds they are, 3) whether they’re trained, and 4) whether they have a bite history.
What if I still can’t get renters insurance that will cover my dog?
If you can’t find a provider that will cover your dog, you have two other options to get coverage:
- Getting an umbrella policy
- Buying canine liability insurance
Umbrella policy: This is an extension to your renters insurance policy that provides additional general-purpose liability coverage (which will cover dog bites). The cost of this policy varies, but in general, you can expect to pay $150 to $350 each year for an additional million dollars of coverage.
Canine liability insurance: This is a type of insurance that specifically covers your dog-related liability. Unlike renters insurance, it has no limitations on the breed of dog you can have.
The cost of canine liability insurance ranges from $100 to $1,000 each year and provides $50,000 to $100,000 of coverage. The cost of your plan will be determined by their breed, age, size, and weight. For coverage options, take a look at InsureMyK9 or Dean Insurance Agency, Inc. (Formerly known as the Federation of Insured Dog Owners, or F.I.D.O. — yes, really.)
Filing a claim for a dog bite
If your dog bites someone, you’ll probably need to file a claim if the injury was serious enough that they had to go to the hospital. Their medical bills will almost certainly exceed your deductible. (If the injury was minor enough that they were able to treat it at home, you don’t need to file a claim.)
The process of filing a claim for pet damage or injury is the same as filling other liability claims. Notify your insurer immediately using the usual process described on their website, describing the incident as clearly and completely as you can.
Your provider will wire you money or write you a check to pay for your guest’s medical bills, as well as your attorney fees, if lawyers get involved. Bear in mind that once your dog has a documented bite history, most insurers will charge you higher premiums.