Insurance is confusing to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. When you apply for insurance, a homeowner's insurance policy for example, the insurance agent will ask you anywhere from what your roof is made of to whether you have a fire extinguisher to what type of breed your dog Spike is. After compiling that information, he gives you what your insurance will cost and sends you a packet full of numbers, information, and language that appears to come from another planet. It is at this moment that you ask yourself: What exactly is it that I'm buying? Why did he have to ask me all of those questions? What are all of these numbers? Is this policy language in English? It is in this stream of blogs, “Understanding Insurance Policies,” that I will attempt to answer these questions.
Another Note About Dogs
Last week, I talked about your responsibility as a dog owner and how that relates to your homeowner's insurance policy. I recommended you check your policy to ensure it covers Spike, because some insurance policies do not cover specific breeds of dogs. But what if you are a landlord or a renter? Is a landlord responsible if her renter's dog bites a neighbor? Is the renter himself covered under the landlord's policy? Let's discuss.
A landlord will generally not be responsible if her renter's dog injures someone. There are, however, some exceptions: 1) If the landlord had some consistent responsibility in taking care of the dog; 2) If the landlord knew the renter's dog had a history of being aggressive; 3) If the landlord fails to maintain his property in a reasonable fashion, and this failure makes it easy for the renter's dog to get out of the yard; 4)If the landlord's lease prohibits dogs, but she allows the renter to have dogs anyway; 5) if the Homeowners Association has a rule against having dogs, but the landlord allows the renter to have dogs anyway. These kinds of events might create responsibility in the landlord. Whether the landlord will be covered under her homeowner's policy depends on what the policy says about dogs.
Translation: landlords should read their policy to see if their renter's dog is covered under the policy.
Renters, however, must be especially careful with their dogs, because they are most likely not covered under their landlords' insurance policies. In other words, if you are a renter and your dog injures someone, it is likely you will have to take personal financial responsiblity for the injuries your dog caused; your landlord's policy will generally only cover the landlord: not you.
Translation: renters should purchase renter's insurance or some other policy that specifically covers their dog. Otherwise, they take a huge risk in the event their dog decides to take a chomp out of somebody.