7 Ways Pets Can Kill Deals or Get You Sued

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Published: April 20, 2016 Last Updated: June 6, 2017

They Don’t Look Like Killers; But…

Addressing pet issues including, insurance and uncovered risks, accidents, bites, odors and how to avoid lawsuits caused by your pets, is a must.  This should be done before putting your home on the market, an open house, a broker preview or the first potential buyer sets foot on your property.  Since pets are like family, this is often overlooked and very sensitive to talk about, but it is an important issue to address and can save you a lot of time and trouble.

Trip and Fall Accidents

Falls account for over 8 million hospital emergency room visits a year, representing the leading cause of emergency room visits at 21.3%. Slip, trip and fall accidents cause 15% of the deaths in the US each year.

If a cat or puppy accidentally trips a person, even if the pet is just being playful or wanting attention, and that person gets injured; a lawsuit may result or medical bills may have to be paid because of the injury. Elderly people are the most prone to these types of accident, although it could happen to any of us.

Likewise, cat food and dog food bowls can also be a trip hazard. Often people aren’t looking where they are stepping, because they are looking at the many features of the home or at the ceiling fan that the agent just pointed out.

Dog Bites

Every year, over 350,000 dog bite victims visit emergency rooms, and roughly 850,000 victims receive medical attention. The CDC reports that there are about 4.5 million people bitten by dogs every year.

Yes, even your dog may bite someone if the situation is right.

Little “Fido” loves people, but when he gets scared or someone accidentally steps on his tail, he may just bite them. Also, some dogs when they feel their space is being invaded by a stranger may get aggressive, thinking that they are just being protective. Other sellers may intentionally have aggressive dogs because they want their home protected or they feel safer. A number of homeowners insurance policies exclude dog bites or dog bites from certain breeds.

Insurance Claims May Be Denied

Because insurance claims can be denied, there are LEGAL RISKS FOR SELLERS

The Homeowners Insurance Policy May Not Cover Certain Breeds of Dogs, therefore, it is a good idea to check your homeowners insurance policy on pets before putting your house on the market (lists vary from insurance company to insurance company).

Listed below are a few breeds that may not be covered by some insurance companies:

Pit Bull     Rottweiler     German Shepherd     Husky     Malamute     Wolf – dog hybrid     Chow     Doberman     Saint Bernard     Great Dane     Akita     Bull Mastiff     Boxer

Different insurance companies and states have conditions and laws regarding dogs and dog liability. A few insurance policies may cover all dogs for everything; but very few. Insurance companies may pay claims if a dog trips a person, but won’t pay for dog bites. The average dog bite claim payout runs in the thousands, and can reach over a million dollars in some cases.

Odors & Pet Hair Turns Buyers OFF


Just as some people do not like smoke odors in a home, there are those who do not like pet odors. You never find a retailer who is selling a product, that uses pet odors to entice people into their business. Yet, people selling a home worth hundreds of thousands, ignore pet odors in their home. Often they don’t realize how the odors in the home affect other people since they are accustom to the smell and often don’t give it a second thought.

Legal Risk – Masking odors with candles, potpourri and air-fresheners.

Sellers will often attempt to mask odors with various scents. However, caution should be exercised when doing this, for there are legal cases where the sellers or agents have been accused of failure to disclose odors, that they were intentionally hiding odors or deceiving the buyer. This is not a position that one wants to be in.

Carpet, litter boxes and pet beds are among the common culprits; and sometimes even the pets themselves smell. A thorough cleaning of the home, including the carpets and furniture can help reduce odors. Special attention to cat litter boxes, dog runs and cages is important.

Pet odors and pets hurt the sale of a house

Pet hair

Hair laying all over furniture, bedspreads and carpeting is not a selling point. Hairballs and hair on kitchen counter tops and tables are a real turnoff for buyers. Cleaning and vacuuming regularly is important.

Cat jumps up on kitchen counter to be petted, rubbed or to lick a skillet –  big turn off for buyers

These type of things, including cats roaming where food may be setting or served can make the buyers think that the house is dirty or unhealthy.

Exotic pets and snakes

Sellers should be aware that some people are afraid of exotic pets. Therefore, all exotic pets should be in cages and serious consideration given to having the pets removed from the house during showings and open houses. Doing so may be best for the pets as well. At times buyers or agents may unfairly start referring to the home as the “snake house” or other descriptive names, which may not make for good marketing.

Dog distracting lady

Don’t Let The Buyers Get Distracted By Your Pet

Buyers may only be in your home for 5 or 6 minutes when they are first looking at the home, as well as many other homes. If they spend a couple of minutes petting your dog or watching them play, you may have lost 10% to 20% of your marketing time. Therefore, having pets gone at times of showings and open houses, insures that the potential buyers will not be spending those precious marketing minutes playing with the pet.

The Bottom Line

Bottom Line

“Everybody Doesn’t Love Your Pet The Way You Do” so don’t let your pet kill your deal.

It’s important to ask yourself, How do you score when it comes to handling the above issues?

  • Have a plan on how to handle pets when the house is being shown and at open houses.
  • Check your homeowners  insurance policy for what it covers and the limits, making sure you are properly covered.

Remember that selling a home can create anxiety in pets, as well as you, and having them gone or in a safe and protected place during showings and open houses may also make them feel better and more relaxed.

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