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Does home insurance cover animal damage?

Mark Bristow avatar
Mark Bristow
- 5 min read
Does home insurance cover animal damage?

When the world went into global lockdown, a lot of people headed to animal shelters to adopt a pet. Like a family member to most, a pet brings joy and love, and has even been shown to have therapeutic qualities. But knowing pets, they can get into a lot of mischief that could result in bad news for your property.

Does your home insurance cover animal damage to your owner-occupied house or its contents? Or perhaps you are a landlord wishing to rent out your home to a pet owner, or you’re a pet owner looking to lease a house - what should both parties keep in mind before entering into an agreement?

Do most home insurance policies include pet damage automatically?

Homeowner’s insurance may not cover damage caused by pets. Most insurers don’t even offer accidental damage cover as part of a standard policy, meaning you’re required to purchase it as an extra if you are looking to be covered for loss or damage caused by unfortunate mishaps.

Even within accidental damage, some policies exclude damage caused by pets, and so it’s important that you read the fine print to understand your exact cover.

What types of pets are covered?

If your home insurance policy does cover pets, it might be sensible to enquire if the policy covers all types of pets (e.g., dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, fish and sea creatures, etc.) or if there are exclusions.

Does the policy cover personal liability for pet-related incidents?

Find out if the policy provides coverage if your pet injures someone or damages their property, and if so, what is the maximum amount the insurer will pay out?

Are there any limits on the number of pets covered by the policy?

Determine if there are restrictions on the number of pets covered under your policy.

Is the property ready for a pet?

Whether you’re the owner of the property or looking to rent it, you need to ensure the property is ready to take on a pet.

Pet owners should choose a house that suits their pet’s needs. For example, if you own an energetic breed of dog, keeping it locked up in an apartment while you go to work is only asking for trouble. You may instead want to look for a property with a large fenced yard.

As an owner occupier or landlord, you might need to make changes to your property which make it easier for you or your tenant to maintain the house. By replacing carpets with tiles or floorboards, or setting up secure fencing, you may be able to help create a space that’s ideal for outdoor pets.

Is the pet a right fit?

Laws around renting with pets vary around Australia. Depending on the state or territory where you live, even after you find the right house for your pet, you may still need to get permission from the landlord, who might be a little reluctant.

You could try to swing opinion in your favour by presenting your pet in a good light. Create a profile that highlights its best qualities, including personality, temperament, and breed. Include a photograph, vaccination details and if possible, a character reference from the previous property manager or your vet. You can also suggest a trial period where you can demonstrate that you are a responsible tenant and pet owner.

If you’re a landlord, you can also put down some ground rules and make a pet agreement for the tenant with any rules that need to be followed. You can aim to develop a healthy relationship with your tenants so that they can approach you for any pet-related issues.

Keep in mind that in most of Australia’s states and territories landlords cannot legally charge higher rents or higher ‘pet bonds’ to tenants with pets.

It’s important to maintain the property

As a landlord, it’s important to schedule regular inspections of your property. Consider staying in touch with the neighbours to know whether a pet is being a nuisance.

As a tenant, you must ensure the property is kept clean and handed over in a spotless condition when leaving. Some landlords might insist on having the carpets steam-cleaned or deodorised before you vacate.

Owner-occupiers may also want to invest in some regular home maintenance, as this can help to keep the property in tip-top condition and avoid potentially voiding your home insurance if previously preventable problems occur. 

It might be a good idea to invest in insurance

Owner occupiers, landlords and tenants can all consider getting insurance that covers any possible damage by pets. 

In some cases, you may also be able to add pet insurance to the policy, which may help to cover some of the vet bills involved as part of the ongoing costs of pet ownership

Some landlord insurance policies cover damage by tenants’ pets. If this is something you think you’ll need, shop around for a policy that protects against pet damage as well as other risks, such as deliberate tenant damage, loss of rental income and legal liability.

Renters insurance typically protects against loss or damage to contents caused by theft, storm, fire, along with a host of other insured events. You could also shop for a policy that includes accidental damage caused by your pet.

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Product database updated 14 Jul, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Peter Terlato before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.