Q: What liability issues are there for me as a landlord if I rent to people with pets?
I own a few houses that I lease out. Two of them have been vacant for a while, so I was thinking about foregoing my "no pets" rule for those two homes, hoping that I might get some renters. Are there any liability issues I need to know about? Do I need landlord insurance?
A: It is true that the risk of liability lawsuits does exist when renting to pet owners—dog owners in particular. However, there are ways that you can easily mitigate this and protect yourself.
For starters, you can limit pet ownership to renters who do not have what insurance companies consider aggressive, or dangerous, breeds. These include Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Pit Bulls, Presa Canarios, Rottweilers, Siberian Huskies, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and wolf hybrids.
Secondly, you can make it a condition of your lease that your tenants who have dogs carry canine liability insurance. That way, if their dog happens to get loose and bites a neighbor or causes property damage, restitution will be covered by your tenant’s insurance.
Finally, be sure to protect yourself further against potential liability lawsuits through your landlord insurance liability coverage. You may find yourself held responsible if your tenant lets their pet liability insurance lapse, if their pet causes damages or injuries that exceed what your tenant's insurance will cover, or if you are negligent in handling the situation following an incident and your tenant’s dog attacks someone for the second time.
Be sure to let your insurance company know that there is a dog in the home that you are renting out, or your claims may be denied.