A dog bite is a big deal. It can be an even bigger deal when it happens on rented property and a dispute arises over whether the fault lies with the landlord or the tenant who owns the dog. Under most circumstances, the owner of the dog is liable for any damage inflicted by the animal, but there are some cases where responsibility falls on the landlord.
1. Landlord Was Looking After The Dog
Example: The university student who lives next door to you is going home for the weekend. She cannot take her adorable little chihuahua with her because her grandmother, who is allergic to dogs, will be visiting. The landlord happily obliges when she asks if he wouldn’t mind looking after her precious pet until she returns, but he soon finds out what a handful chihuahuas can be. During a Sunday morning walk, the pint-sized pup attacks you and leaves a nasty bite.
This seems like the most obvious one. If the landlord has agreed to take care of a tenant’s dog for any period of time, the landlord can be considered the owner of the dog and therefore held liable for any damage or injuries inflicted by the animal. Even if the landlord merely feeds the dog or takes it for walks occasionally, they become an owner by de facto and remain responsible for anything that happens while the dog is under their care. If you’re unsure who is responsible for your dog bite, consult a personal injury lawyer.
- Landlord Knew The Dog Was Dangerous
Example:A fellow tenant in your apartment building adopts a large, aggressive German shepherd. Shortly thereafter, the landlord discovers that the dog poses a dangerous threat when the tenant explains that the animal came to live with him because it had behaved violently toward his young niece. Instead of taking action, the landlord does nothing and lets the tenant and his dog continue to live on the property. One day a few months later, the dog bites one of your children while they are outside playing.
In this case, the negligent and irresponsible landlord can be held liable because he knew that the dog was dangerous and allowed the tenant to keep it on the property. Sometimes this can occur when the tenant convinces the landlord that it won’t happen again, or if the landlord likes the tenant and turns a blind eye to the dog’s bad behavior. However, there are exceptions to the rule. The landlord may have known the dog was dangerous, but will generally not be found liable if he or she was legally unable to remove the animal due to a pre-existing lease agreement, for example.
3. Landlord Didn’t Maintain Property
Example:The house across the street from you has just been rented by a pleasant young couple with a Rottweiler. The fence surrounding the property, which was a main selling point for dog owners, has fallen into disrepair and one day the dog breaks out of the yard. When the young couple return home from work, they find their fur baby wandering the neighborhood and immediately call the landlord to repair the loose latch on the gate, expressing their concern for the safety of their neighbors. Unfortunately, the landlord is a master procrastinator and puts off fixing the gate. Two weeks later, you step outside to retrieve your morning newspaper and the Rottweiler pounces on you after escaping from the yard across the street.
Procrastination can turn to outright negligence if the landlord’s failure to maintain upkeep on the property results in a dog getting loose and attacking you. Most dog owners are responsible citizens who don’t want to see their canine companions hurt anyone, but there is only so much they can do if they have reported the problem and the landlord hesitates too long before fixing what is broken. In a situation like this, the landlord could be found liable for the dog bite you have suffered.
Letting dogs at your rental property also makes you responsible and liable for the safety of the other tenants. Failure to fulfil your duty can invite legal action against you.