Animals, especially dogs, present a number of additional risks to landlords and their rental properties. Not only is there the risk of pet damage to rental units, but certain problematic dogs can also pose a threat to the physical safety of neighbors and visitors. These risks don’t just fall on the landlord — they also extend to the landlord’s insurance provider, which is why something called an animal liability exclusion endorsement exists.

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What is an animal liability exclusion in rental property insurance policies?

In general terms, an exclusion is anything that an insurance policy does not cover. 

Every landlord insurance policy typically lists a number of exclusions for events that the insurance company does not assume responsibility. These exclusions are usually listed in the endorsements (amendments) section of an insurance policy.

Common types of landlord insurance exclusions include floods, acts of war, terrorism attacks, deliberate damage, mold, and pet damage/injury lawsuits.

An animal liability exclusion endorsement, also known as a canine liability exclusion, specifies that the insurance company will not accept claims or make payouts for animal/dog-related incidents, including property damage caused by animals or dog bite personal injury lawsuits.

So, if your rental property insurance policy has a canine liability exclusion, it means that you, as the landlord, will be personally responsible for covering any expenses related to pet damage or animal-related injury lawsuits arising from things like dog bites on your property.

Because canine liability exclusions are so common in landlord insurance policies, many landlords choose to ban dogs (or specific breeds of dogs) in the pet policy section of their rental agreements.

However, since so many people have dogs, banning them altogether can eliminate a large number of potential tenants from your pool of candidates. 

Because of this, you may want to look at ways to extend your landlord insurance to cover issues arising from tenants’ pets on your property.

What part of an insurance policy extends to pets? 

Not all insurance policies include a canine liability exclusion. If there is no animal liability exclusion in your contract, your personal liability coverage will extend to pet-related liability incidents. This means that you cannot be held liable for things like dog bites that occur on your rental property.

If your rental property insurance policy does include exclusions for pet damage/canine liability coverage, you may still be able to add liability insurance for pet-related incidents as endorsements. Keep in mind that this will result in higher insurance costs, and the insurance company may still exclude certain breeds of dogs from their coverage. Or in some cases, insurance companies don’t exclude breeds altogether, but they charge more to provide canine liability coverage for certain breeds.

Examples of dog breeds that are commonly excluded from insurance coverage or treated differently are:

  • Doberman pinscher
  • Pitbull
  • Rottweiler
  • Chow chow
  • Wolf dogs and wolf hybrids
  • Presa canario (canary dog)
  • Akita
  • German shepherd
  • Husky
  • Mastiff
  • Alaskan malamute

The above breeds are ones that are perceived as more dangerous or problematic based on a history of attacks on humans or other animals. Even if you’re able to add canine liability insurance as an exclusion to your rental property insurance policy, you may still need to screen your tenants and ban them from having certain types of dogs on your property to avoid liability for personal injury lawsuits.

german sheperds are normally excluded from insurance policies
German Sheperds are commonly excluded from rental property and homeowners insurance policies

Pets with a history of violence

Insurance companies will never accept responsibility for incidents related to specific animals already known to be dangerous. For example, if someone has a dog with a registered history of biting people, this would negate the insurance company’s liability for any future incidents. 

The same applies to animals with a history of destroying property — if your insurance covers pet damage, but you unknowingly allow someone with a destructive dog to move into your rental property, you may not be able to make a claim if they damage your property.

This is why it’s important to screen people and their pets before they move into your rental property.

Is dog discrimination legal?

In most states, insurance companies (and landlords) are legally allowed to discriminate based on the breed of dog people own. However, there are currently five states that have passed legislation prohibiting insurance companies from dog breed discrimination:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Michigan
  3. Nevada
  4. New York
  5. Pennsylvania

What does animal liability usually not cover?

Animal liability insurance does not provide coverage if something happens to a tenant’s pet. In other words, if their pet gets injured on your property, either accidentally or by another animal, landlord insurance doesn’t cover that. For injuries to their own pets; tenant pet owners will need to have their own pet insurance policies in place. 

Even though you shouldn’t be held liable for anything that happens to tenants’ pets on your property, you might want to consider requiring proof of pet insurance from tenants moving in with pets to help avoid potential disputes down the road.

Key takeaways:

  • Landlord insurance often includes an animal liability exclusion endorsement
  • Animal/canine liability exclusions negate liability for pet damage/injury lawsuits
  • If there is no animal liability exclusion, your policy extends to animal-related incidents
  • If there is a liability exclusion, you may be able to add coverage through endorsements
  • Certain dog breeds may be excluded from coverage no matter what
  • Some states prohibit insurance providers from discriminating against dog breeds
  • Animal liability insurance doesn’t cover injuries to animals

Personal injury and property damage claims arising from pets, most commonly dogs, are two of the most common and expensive types of liability claims, which is why many insurance providers include animal liability exclusion endorsements in rental property insurance policies.

Considering that the average cost for a dog bite personal injury claim was $50,425 as of 2020, this is an important part of your landlord insurance policy not to overlook!

If you want to allow people with pets to move into your property, make sure to choose an insurance policy that provides canine liability coverage or add it on through an endorsement.

And, if you choose not to get insurance for pet damage and injuries, take a close look at ways you can reduce risks through your rental agreement pet policy, particularly by banning or restricting certain types of pets.