While it is rare for a landlord to be held liable for injury caused by their tenant’s dog, that doesn’t stop the injured party from pulling the landlord into a suit, and there are some situations where the landlord could be considered responsible.
The laws around liability in case of a dog bite vary state to state. If you are a landlord who allows your tenants to have dogs, be sure you know the laws in your state. Even if the dog doesn’t have any signs of aggression or prior incident, the dog owner may be held liable for any bodily injury or property damage.
A “One Bite State” means that the dog owner (and anyone who harbors or keeps the dog) will NOT be held liable for the first injury caused by a dog but CAN be held liable for bites or injury caused by a dog known to have caused injury in the past, or be considered “vicious.” The liability is a result of keeping a dog that is known to have hurt people in the past.
A “Mixed Dog Bite State” holds some level of the “one bite rule” with some additional degree of liability.
You can learn more about these state laws here – https://dogbitelaw.com/legal-rights-of-dog-bite-victims-in-usa/one-bite-states-and-mixed-dog-bite-statute-states
As the landlord, you may become responsible in one of the following situations:
- You knew the dog was aggressive and did nothing.
- You had the right to remove the dog by retaking possession of the premises.
- You “harbored” or cared for the tenant’s dog or had some level of control over it.
- You had a rule in your lease prohibiting tenants from having vicious dogs but did not enforce the rule.
If you carry your Premises Liability in the NREIG program, you have a $25,000 or $50,000 sublimit for bodily injury by canines that occur on your owned premises. However, you may also consider requiring your tenant to carry a Canine Liability policy, with you listed as Additional Insured on the policy, to act as first line of defense. Our K9Guard product can be easily purchased by the tenant online. Learn more about this offering here.
Further reading & sources:
Court cases where the landlord was held responsible – https://dogbitelaw.com/landlord-liability-for-dog-bites/liability-for-bites-by-tenants-dogs
Landlord Liability for Tenant Dogs – https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/dog-book/chapter4-7.html