It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find rental properties that allow pets mostly to avoid the mess that some animals can make. But, there’s another risk to allowing tenants to have dogs on your property as well: dog bite liability. Yes, if your tenant doesn’t have renter’s insurance and their dog bites someone else, you could be on the hook for those expenses. As such, it’s important to know how landlords can protect themselves from tenant dog liability so you don’t end up paying for someone else’s mistake.
Require Renter’s Insurance
The best step you can take to make sure you don’t become liable for expenses related to a dog bite from a tenant’s dog is to require all renters to have a renter’s insurance policy that covers dog bites. Most insurance companies will cover expenses related to dog bite injuries under the liability portion of their renter’s insurance policies and this coverage will limit your risk of being named in a lawsuit.
But, it’s critical to know that some insurance policies don’t cover bites from specific breeds that have been deemed dangerous. These breeds include dobermans, rottweilers, chow chows, German shepherds, and of course, pit bulls, among others. If they own one of these breeds, the renter will need to purchase additional insurance to make sure they’re covered.
Ban Certain Breeds
Even if you have a soft spot for dogs, you have to take certain steps to make sure you’re protected against a dog bite liability claim. In this case, you may have to ban your renters from owning breeds that are considered inherently dangerous. Your tenant may try to tell you that their pit bull is the sweetest dog ever and would never bite anyone, but don’t let them fool you. Dogs are unpredictable and even the most docile animal can become a threat, especially if their breed has been bred to fight.
Some cities already have breed-specific bans in place, which can make enforcement easier for you, but if not, you will need to carefully weigh the risks of allowing dangerous breeds on your rental property with the tenant’s desire to own a dangerous breed. Ultimately, if you know a tenant has a potentially dangerous dog, you could be held partially liable even if your tenant has renter’s insurance.
Ban All Dogs
Implementing a ban on all dogs on your rental property is the easiest solution to the dog bite liability risk. No dogs, no risk. This is the path that many landlords are choosing, which is why it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find rental properties that allow dogs. Even if you’re a dog lover, it might be too risky to allow the animals on your property, particularly if you’re having trouble with tenants not having renter’s insurance.
Have Homeowner’s Insurance
If you don’t want to ban all dogs and don’t want to implement a renter’s insurance requirement, then make sure your homeowner’s insurance policy is up-to-date and includes dog bite coverage. This is because when a tenant’s dog inevitably bites someone else, you’ll at least have your own insurance policy to cover your eventual liability expenses.
You might not think it’s fair that you can be held liable for your tenants’ dogs, but is it fair that a victim gets bitten on your property? The fact is, you can take steps to limit your liability now so that you don’t have to worry about it being fair later.