Adams Stirling PLC


QUESTION: My association wants proof of pet insurance. Are pets covered under an owner's policy or do they need to get separate insurance?

ANSWER: Currently most homeowner (HO-6) policies and renter (HO-4) policies cover pet liability. However, insurance carriers are increasingly wary of pet coverage. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) dog bites account for more than one-third of all owner insurance liability claims. The III also reports that 50% of all bites occurred on the owner's property. As a result, many carriers are starting to exclude pets with bite histories as well as aggressive dog breeds such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, etc. Accordingly, owners cannot assume their policies cover their pets. If they find that pets are excluded on their policy, there are carriers that provide coverage on a stand-alone basis.

Problems With Pet Insurance. Because of the problem with dog bites, it's understandable that boards would be concerned about owner insurance. However, requiring owners to carry pet insurance can be problematic for the association. Doing so creates an administrative burden on the association as well as potential liability. If a board passes a rule requiring pet insurance and then fails to enforce it, the association could be dragged into litigation by an owner who was bitten, only to find the dog's owner was uninsured in violation of the association's rule.

Requiring insurance is desirable but not necessary. Owners are already liable for any damage caused by their pets whether or not they carry insurance. As such, boards need to weigh the benefits of requiring pet insurance against the burden of enforcing the provision and the potential liability if something slips through the cracks.

Possible Solutions. Instead of requiring pet insurance, boards can do the following: (i) amend their CC&Rs to ban aggressive breeds and (ii) require that dogs with bite histories be muzzled whenever they are in the common areas.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC