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  • Writer's pictureHSM MANAGEMENT

HOA Insurance and Pets

Updated: May 28


While your “best friend” may be your dog, and most dogs never bite, most property insurance companies have their own view of dogs and how they can create liability.


Insurance companies understand that owners of dogs in California, have strict liability for any harm caused by their dog should it bite someone. In short, if a dog injures someone, liability is not at issue. The dog owner is liable. The only issue becomes the amount of damages calculated in dollars.


When the owner of a dog that bites or attacks someone lives in a common interest development, the attorney representing the plaintiff will often times include the HOA as a defendant claiming that the association:


  • Knew of the propensity of the dog to bite or attack;

  • Should have known of the propensity of the dog to bite or attack;

  • Failed to enforce reasonable rules that would have prevented the dog bite or attack; and/or

  • Had a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises at all times.


In short, when a dog owned by a resident (owner or renter) injures someone, the homeowners association is usually named as a defendant. Every insurance company is aware of this fact.


It is also a fact, based upon years of claims experience, that most insurance companies consider the following list of dogs to be the most likely to bite or attack:


  • Akita

  • Alaskan Malamute

  • Chow Chow

  • Doberman Pincher

  • German Shepherd

  • Pit Bull

  • Presa Canario

  • Rottweiler

  • Siberian Husky

  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier


As a result of their claims experience developed over many years, many insurance companies have done one or more of the following:


  • Increased insurance premiums for homeowner associations that do not prohibit residents from keeping certain types of dogs;

  • Increased the deductible for homeowner associations that do not prohibit residents from keeping certain types of dogs;

  • Refused to renew insurance policies where the homeowner association has not prohibited residents from keeping certain types of dogs; and/or

  • Eliminated all coverage for dog bites and attacks for certain types of dogs specified in the policy.


As an HOA property manager or board member, it is important to be aware of the concerns of insurance companies and to be fully aware of any restrictions or limitations included in policies that affect properties for which you have responsibility.


IMPORTANT:

Responsibility for Pets

CALIFORNIA CODES CIVIL CODE 4715

4715. (a) No governing documents shall prohibit the owner of a

separate interest within a common interest development from keeping

at least one pet within the common interest development, subject to

reasonable rules and regulations of the association. This section may

not be construed to affect any other rights provided by law to an

owner of a separate interest to keep a pet within the development.

(b) For purposes of this section, "pet" means any domesticated

bird, cat, dog, aquatic animal kept within an aquarium, or other

animal as agreed to between the association and the homeowner.

(c) If the association implements a rule or regulation restricting

the number of pets an owner may keep, the new rule or regulation

shall not apply to prohibit an owner from continuing to keep any pet

that the owner currently keeps in the owner's separate interest if

the pet otherwise conforms with the previous rules or regulations

relating to pets.

(d) For the purposes of this section, "governing documents" shall

include, but are not limited to, the conditions, covenants, and

restrictions of the common interest development, and the bylaws,

rules, and regulations of the association.

(e) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2001, and

shall only apply to governing documents entered into, amended, or

otherwise modified on or after that date.

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