Pets and renters insurance: Why you need it
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Americans love their furry friends — over 114 million U.S. households (or, an astounding 70 percent of households) include a dog or a cat. If you’re a pet owner and a renter, you might wonder what coverage your renters policy provides regarding injuries and property damage your pet might cause. You may also be in the market for pet insurance, but you might not be sure how this policy differs from the pet coverage on your renters policy. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team breaks down the difference between renters insurance and pet insurance so that you can make an educated decision about the coverage that’s best for you.
What is the difference between pet insurance and renters insurance?
Renters who are pet owners may want to consider having a pet health insurance policy and a renters insurance policy that includes pet liability coverage. Each of these policies is designed to cover different scenarios and has its own specific set of coverages.
Renters insurance is a policy that typically includes coverage for your personal property and liability when you are renting your home or apartment. While your landlord’s coverage should cover the actual structure of your rented home, your renter’s insurance is designed to provide coverage for your belongings and your liability exposure.
Having a pet increases your liability exposure; the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. If you have a pet and it injures someone — by biting them, scratching them, knocking them over or in any other way — you may be facing a large bill for their medical expenses. Depending on your specific renters insurance policy, your medical payments coverage and liability coverage may help you pay these expenses.
Pet insurance is essentially health insurance for pets and can help ease the burden of expensive treatments. While coverage options and deductible amounts vary, many plans do not cover pre-existing conditions or routine veterinary visits. Other plans may cover alternative care such as acupuncture and chiropractics. You may have the option to include dental care, X-rays and other medical procedures to the list of covered expenses on a pet care policy.
Many pet owners ask: “is pet insurance required?” Although your landlord may require you to carry renters insurance, the choice to purchase pet insurance is a personal one. A pet insurance policy, however, could help you to pay for medical bills should your pet become sick. Pet coverage may not be available for all types of pets, though. It is most commonly offered for dogs and cats, although some specialty companies may offer coverage for additional types of pets.
How can renters insurance protect you and your pet?
If your pet injures someone, you could be held liable for the injured party’s medical bills — this is where the liability coverage on your renters insurance may step in. Liability coverage is standard on a renters insurance policy and pays for medical expenses if a guest sustains injuries in your home. Typically, the liability limit on a renters policy will range from $100,000 to $300,000, but you should check your policy to determine your specified limit.
You might wonder, “does renters insurance cover pet damage?”. The answer is usually no; your renters policy will not provide coverage for damage your pet could cause to your personal property. Additionally, if your pet causes damage to the property you are renting, that is not covered under your policy. Instead, your landlord’s policy usually covers those damages.
If you’re a renter with a pet, it’s essential to let your insurance company know about the animals you have in your home. If your insurance company doesn’t know about a pet in your household and that pet causes injuries, your company could deny your claim. Also, many companies exclude certain breeds of dogs, and exotic animals, such as reptiles and ferrets, are not usually covered.
The cost of renters insurance
The price of a renters insurance policy depends on numerous factors, including how much coverage you choose, your marital status and your credit-based insurance score. However, the average premium for a renters insurance policy in the United States is $174 per year, or about $15 per month, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).
Having a pet could increase the cost of your renters insurance. Because a pet adds an additional liability exposure to your policy, your insurance company may charge you a higher premium to offset that risk.
Renters insurance is not required by law, but you may have to carry a policy as a requirement of your agreement with your landlord. Even if you are not required to have coverage, you may still want to purchase renters insurance.Triple-I found that the average liability claim resulting from pet injuries was $49,025 in 2021. For many people, an out-of-pocket expense of this amount would be devastating, so a renters policy may provide you with financial peace of mind.
What pet coverage is not included on a renters insurance policy?
The pet damages and liability coverages in your renters policy may not cover you for certain incidents. Additionally, your insurance company may exclude coverage for damages or injuries caused by certain dog breeds. Your renters policy liability limits may be significantly reduced or not applicable at all if you have one of the dog breeds on a restricted breed list. You may want to consider purchasing pet liability insurance for renters to provide extra coverage.
Pet liability insurance
A pet liability policy gives you liability coverage that your renters insurance may not include, such as coverage for dogs with a history of aggression, off-duty police dogs or extended coverage for incidents that occur away from home.
“It is always good for pet owners to consider their specific issues, such as dog breed or if there is any aggressive history from the dog,” says Ray Farmer, director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance. “Owners should look specifically at the policy to understand what they will be responsible to cover and take steps to mitigate any damage that might happen.”
If your dog has bitten someone, insurers will likely consider it to be more of a risk, regardless of the breed. Even if your dog has never bitten or attacked anyone, if the breed is deemed dangerous or risky, it could be difficult to find coverage.
Certain dog breeds may require more insurance
Although every dog has its own personality and the likelihood of a bite occurring depends greatly on training, there are unfortunately some breeds that are viewed as having more aggressive tendencies or being at a greater risk of causing injury than others.
The list of breeds below comes, in large part, from a study of fatal dog bites commissioned by the U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in 2000. The study lasted for 19 years and found that there were about 12 dog-bite fatalities per year during that time, and 50% of those involved pit bulls, Rottweilers or combinations of those breeds. The study also found that male dogs were more likely to fatally bite someone, and that neutered dogs were less likely to attack than sexually intact dogs.
Each insurance company has its own underwriting regulations for renters insurance. Dog restrictions are common, however, and you could find that your company may exclude the following breeds:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Chow Chow
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
- Husky or Malamute
- Pit bull
- Presa Canario
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Saint Bernard
- Wolf-dog hybrids
If you own one of these breeds, experts recommend informing your carrier. You may still be able to purchase insurance, but there may be a surcharge. If your carrier does not offer coverage for your dog breed, you may want to seek out a company that does not use a dog’s breed to determine eligibility. If your dog has a history of aggression, you may only be able to find coverage with a high-risk carrier.
Frequently asked questions
It is important to let your property insurance company know you have a pet, even if it is not a dog, to avoid gaps in your property coverage. Although certain dog breeds may be a primary concern of insurance companies, other animals can cause damage that an insurer may have to pay for if you file a claim. Cats could scratch a guest, for example. If you do not disclose that you have a pet, an insurance company could deny a claim due to misrepresentation, which could impact your ability to find future coverage.
If you file a claim for injuries caused by your pet, you will likely see an increase in your insurance premium at the next renewal date. This is because an insurance company views a claim as an indication that such damages could happen again, so you are charged more to compensate for that increased risk. If the injuries are severe enough, your insurance company may choose to cancel your policy. If your policy has been canceled due to a pet injury claim, you will likely have trouble finding a policy to extend coverage to your pet or pay much more for coverage from a new carrier.
If you own a dog whose breed is on your company’s ineligible list, you may still have options. Your company may exclude coverage for these breeds on its basic policy, but you may be able to add the coverage for an additional fee. If this is not an option, you can search for a carrier that will insure your dog. Every company has the right to create its own list of ineligible dog breeds, so you may find a company that does not consider your dog a higher-than-average risk. Additionally, some companies do not use a dog’s breed to determine eligibility and instead only consider a dog’s history of aggression.