On a typical day, about 1,000 U.S. citizens require emergency care treatment due to serious dog bites with nearly 10,000 of them annually hospitalized according to Dogbites.org, a victims’ advocacy group.
In one recent situation, a south Texas woman had three of her fingers bitten off her hand by a pit bull as she was trying to remove her smaller dog from his mouth. Her pet had burrowed into an empty yard which attracted the other dog, who also broke free from his home. When the smaller dog’s owner saw the attack, she ran to her canine’s defense.
The empty yard had a good fence protecting its environs from visiting dogs. However, the first dog had found a way to squeeze into the yard. So did the second dog.
A well-known personal injury lawyer is representing the woman. His firm has sued both the dog owner and the landlord of the second property. The property owner may face the prospect of major litigation.
Unusual circumstances like this tragic case with the woman happen every day. 200 or more people were killed by vicious dogs every year in the United States. It’s a small percentage when you look at the big picture of millions of families with a caring, loving pet or two who don’t cause problems for their landlord or his property management team.
Still, landlords need to have a discussion with their insurance agent on the possible claims one can make against them if their renter has a dog. One would think that the landlord with the empty yard and his insurance firm may never have had to pay a claim.
However, if there wasn’t an administrative clause such as adding a property management firm as “additional insured” to the policy, it may cost him or her a lot of money. As part of our standard Texas contract, we require that our customers inform their insurance companies that they want to have listed as an “additional insured.”
Landlords, especially new ones, need to have an ongoing conversation with their insurance carriers about their liability and property replacement coverages. It’s tempting to ask a property management team to provide advice on insurance coverages, but it’s critically important for the landlord to discuss the terms of the policy with his agent or insurance representative after reviewing it.
When a landlord personally has that ongoing conversation with their insurance company, I would add the “dog” question to that list. And, I would carefully document the response especially when the agent or rep gives a response to your question about the liability issues associated with a renter having a canine on the premise.
Like the landlord with the vacant property where two dogs attacked each other, one never knows when a situation like this could “bite you,” especially in terms of financial responsibility. Having proper liability coverage and naming your property manager as “additional insured” clause in your rental property insurance policy is one of many steps a landlord can take to protect him or her from a major liability issue.
(I am a Property Manager based in San Antonio. If you have questions about this or any other property management topics, please feel free to message me.)