What is pet liability insurance for renters?

Pet liability insurance for renters offers coverage in case your pet hurts someone or damages their property. Most renters insurance policies include at least some coverage for pet liability. This coverage is included in the price of the policy that you purchase.

Pet liability coverage typically includes:

  • Bites and other injuries. If your dog bites or attacks someone, this coverage kicks in to pay the victim's medical bills. Your insurance also protects you if you’re sued for the dog bite injuries.
  • Property damage your pet causes. If your cat scratches your friend's expensive furniture or your dog chews your guest's spendy handbag, this coverage reimburses the cost of repairing or replacing the item.

Some pet damages don’t fall under the scope of your renters insurance policy. For example, damages that your pet causes to your rental unit aren’t covered.

"Usually, the deposit that your landlord collects will be used for damage to your apartment," says Janet Ruiz, director of strategic communications for the Insurance Information Institute. "You -- the renter -- are responsible if damage exceeds that amount."

Two examples of when your renters insurance won’t cover pet-related issues include: 

  • Your pet injures a roommate or someone else who lives with you.
  • Your pet damages your personal items.

Typically, your policy covers pet damages up to your renters liability limits. However, it’s important to understand exactly how much pet coverage your renters policy provides. If your pet badly injures -- or even kills -- someone, you could be sued for a large amount of damages. There’s a good chance that your renters policy won’t provide enough coverage to reimburse your losses.

One way to increase your liability coverage limit is to buy a separate animal liability policy. An umbrella liability insurance policy can also provide extra coverage. It’s relatively inexpensive to purchase an umbrella policy that provides an extra $1 million or more in liability coverage.

If you buy an additional policy, make sure you understand exactly what it does and doesn’t cover. There’s no guarantee that your umbrella policy -- or any other type of insurance -- will cover all damages caused by pets. So, ask your insurance agent to explain what is and is not covered.

Common damages caused by pets that are covered by renters pet insurance

There are many types of damage that your pet might inflict. For example:

  • Your dog could bite a delivery driver.
  • Your dog could break into a neighbor's yard and scratch the house's back door.
  • Your cat might hop up on the mantelpiece at a friend's home and knock over and destroy an antique vase.
  • Your cat could scratch a child severely enough that medical attention is required.
  • Your dog could run into someone at full speed, causing the individual to fall and break a bone.

Having a policy can protect you from the financial ramifications of these types of incidents and more.

How common are pet-related insurance claims?

Liability claims for dog bites and other dog-related injuries were $854 million in 2020, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm. 

Though dog bites are declining, the cost per claim increased by 12.3% to $50,425. The Insurance Information Institute estimated that the average cost per claim has risen 162% since 2003 due to higher medical expenses and bigger settlements and judgments. These charges can include medical payments and legal fees.

California leads the nation in the number of pet-related claims (2,103). Florida was second with 1,235 claims in 2020. Nebraska has the highest average cost per claim ($71,243), with New York second ($66,817).

The trend in higher costs per claim is attributable not only to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, etc., which can result in injuries that impact the potential severity of the losses,” according to the Insurance Information Institute. 

Components of renters insurance that protects your pet

When it comes to covering your pet, you don’t need to purchase a special type of insurance policy. Instead, a standard renters insurance policy covers your liability for many things, including damages caused by your pet.

The coverage limits of your policy apply to all types of damages, including those your pet causes.

"You can pick your limit of coverage," Ruiz says. "There isn't extra pet-related coverage."

Specifically, your renters insurance policy will cover the following:

Injuries your pet causes to someone else

Dogs and cats sometimes can bite, scratch or otherwise injure other people. 

"If your dog or cat bites a visitor, your policy's personal liability and medical coverage will cover the cost of potential medical bills," Ruiz says.

Damages your pet causes to property

Sometimes, a pet may damage the property at someone else's home. Or the pet may damage someone's personal belongings, such as by chewing up an expensive wallet.

"If your pet damages someone else's property, your liability coverage will respond up to policy limits," Ruiz says.

When pet liability coverage doesn't cover your pet

Does renters insurance cover pets? In most cases, the answer is yes. But not always.

For example, your renters liability insurance probably won’t cover exotic pets, from reptiles to wolves and tigers.

In addition, many dog breeds are routinely excluded from renters insurance liability coverage. The specific dog breeds will vary by insurer, but they commonly include:

  • Pit bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • German shepherds
  • Akitas
  • Alaskan malamutes
  • Doberman pinschers
  • Great Danes
  • Staffordshire terriers
  • Chow chows
  • Siberian huskies
  • Presa Canarios
  • Wolf hybrids

Beyond dog breed, insurance companies also might exclude dogs with a history of biting people. It's also important to note that your renters insurance only covers damages to others.

"Renters insurance doesn't pay for damage to your own personal property caused by your own pet," Ruiz says.

When purchasing any insurance policy, including renters insurance, it’s crucial that you talk with an agent or company representative and determine exactly what the policy cover and what the insurance doesn't cover.

Home insurance FAQs

Do I have to tell my insurance company about my dog?

It’s vital that you inform your insurance company that you have a dog. Failing to inform your insurer about your dog and any pet-related damages may not be covered.

If you purchase a policy and then buy a dog after you have secured coverage, be sure to let your insurer know about the newest member of your home. Again, failure to do so can result in the insurer not covering damages related to your dog.

Can a landlord require insurance on a pet?

In most places, a landlord can require you to purchase renters insurance so that you have liability coverage, which includes pet liability coverage.

However, in Oklahoma, landlords don’t have the right to insist that tenants carry renters insurance.

Does landlord insurance protect a tenant's pet?

No. A landlord's insurance policy protects the landlord, not the tenant. If you want your pet covered, you need to purchase your own renters insurance policy.