A popular question I receive from landlords is about allowing pets. Whether you allow pets in your rental is entirely up to you. I’ve heard that pet ownership is as high as 63 percent of the population, so if you exclude pets, you run the risk of excluding some tenants.
One item I do counsel landlords on is to verify with their insurer if there are any dog breed restrictions in place on their homeowner’s or landlord’s policy. Although your next-door neighbor’s yippy Bichon Frisé — which clearly has a serious Napoleon complex and a seemingly endless desire to draw blood from people’s ankles — might be far more likely to bite someone than your cuddly pit bull, it doesn’t necessarily mean your insurance company cares.
Many insurance companies are banning specific breeds all together and dropping households with a high-risk breed. For homeowners and renters, this can mean headaches.
The insurance company may just deny you homeowner’s coverage – or your tenants, renter’s coverage – because of your dog. Other insurance companies may still extend coverage to you but will charge you a higher premium.
And while some people try to skirt the issue by not telling their landlord, manager or insurance company about a new dog, this is risky. If something does happen with a dog in your rental and you did not disclose the information, the insurance company may deny your claim. That could cost you tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Of course, the rules on which dogs an insurance company will cover, and which they will not, vary from company to company. Insurance companies change their policies from time to time and state to state.
Typically, insurance companies tend to resist covering dogs, or any mixes, of pit bulls and Staffordshire terriers, Doberman pinschers, Rottweilers, chows, Akitas and Siberian huskies, to name just a few.
At this point you might be saying, “Well, I get all that. But why would an insurance company care?”
The reason is lawsuits. Insurance companies do not want to deal with a potential lawsuit if someone gets bitten or hurt by your dog while in your home. With dog bites accounting for one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims, and the average claim costing the insurance company $24,511, insurance companies are passing the $356.2 million bill onto their consumers.
If there is a dog that is on the list of excluded breeds, the company makes you sign an exclusion for animal bites so that the liability for dog bites is excluded. Since no landlord would willingly sign such an addendum, excluded breeds are necessarily excluded.
And lest you think this is exclusive to homeowners, tenants might be surprised to know that future insurance policies they might obtain could also be affected. Even if you have an “eligible” dog that ends up biting someone and the policy pays out, you could have a dog exclusion for the rest of your life on your policies, even if you switch insurance companies or get a different dog. So you can think of it as you get one dog bite claim per lifetime.
I can understand that this policy will make some landlords happy – and make just as many tenants unhappy. But, as it turns out, landlords are obliged to have homeowner’s insurance. Accepting dogs on the excluded-breeds list makes that insurance unobtainable in some cases, and at the very least much more costly.
Scott Taylor is the owner of SCV Leasing. For information call 661-294-8500 or email Scott@SCVLeasing.com.
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