You can’t imagine life without your fur babies, but they don’t always behave themselves when they’re left home alone. If your animal companions run amok while you’re at work or running errands, the damage might be covered by your homeowners’ insurance. However, these types of claims are often wrongfully denied by insurance companies. Attorney Bill Voss explains how to get your homeowners' insurance to cover property damage caused by a pet.
Which Animals Qualify as Pets in a Homeowner Property Damage Claim?
Common household animals include dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, lizards, and even miniature pigs. As long as the animal lives primarily in the home (as opposed to an outdoor cat or someone else’s pet that visits your house), you have an excellent chance to claim back the damages. Your coverage might also extend to damage caused by domestic animals living on the property, such as chickens, goats, cows, or horses, as long as the animal isn’t used for commercial purposes.
Coverage for exotic pets can be more difficult to claim. Generally, an animal is considered exotic if it is: found naturally in the wild, requires a special permit, requires modifications to your home or yard to contain it and provide a suitable habitat, or is a hybrid of a domesticated and non-domesticated animal (like wolf-dog breeds).
If there are no specific exclusions regarding pet damage, you may be able to recover the costs of:
- Ripped or chewed furniture and rugs
- Cracked or broken windows and glass surfaces
- Scratches or holes in the drywall, doors, and molding
- Wood floor damage or discoloration
- Damage to barns, sheds, pens, or other structures
- Electrical damage from pets chewing on cords
- Loss of one high-value item from a single occurrence
Remember that homeowners’ insurance policies may not cover damage caused by an animal that is not a pet. Wild animal coverage typically only applies to large creatures like bears or deer that cause significant destruction to a home, garage, or fence on the property. Smaller pests such as rodents, bats, or insects are typically not included in homeowners’ policies because it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to prevent these infestations.
How Can I Tell If My Homeowners’ Insurance Will Cover the Damage?
Most pet damage coverage is limited because insurers expect owners to assume the risks of buying a pet. That said, homeowners should read their policies carefully to understand the full extent of their coverage. You may be able to get pet damage coverage through your homeowners’:
- Dwelling coverage. Damage to your house’s structure—the walls, pipes, electrical wiring, etc.—is covered under dwelling insurance, which also covers damage to outbuildings and fences. Floor damage is a common cause of dwelling insurance claims and can be used to repair or replace wood floors and carpets destroyed by pet urine, tears, or stains.
- Personal property insurance. Homeowners may need a coverage extension to pay for lost personal property, such as TVs, game consoles, furniture, cameras, and other expensive items damaged by pets. This coverage extension can be invaluable if an animal swallows a family heirloom, shreds a painting, or chews on antique furniture.
- Liability insurance. Pet liability protection is usually reserved for when a dog or other animal bites someone, but it can also cover costs if your pet damages someone else's property. For example, if your cow breaks out of the barn and damages the neighbor's fence, liability insurance should cover your neighbor’s damages even if your barn isn’t covered.
- Accidental damage coverage. Even if your homeowners’ insurance policy does not refer to pet damage, you may still be able to make a claim based on accidental damage. This could be a one-time allowance for interior damage caused by a random event or a special claim covering a single high-value item.
Learn How to Get Full Payment for Damage to Your Home
If your insurance provider refuses to honor your claim, the Voss Law Firm can help you get paid for your losses—and potentially more. Call us at (888) 614-7730 or complete our contact form today to get answers to your questions, or start reading your copy of our free book, Tricks of the Trade: How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse, and Refuse.