Can landlords be held accountable for tenants’ dog bites?

Many people love dogs and regard them as members of the family. In that group, a lot of dog owners live in apartment complexes or rental housing. Should a tenant’s dog attack a person on that property, can the landlord be held legally liable for damages and/or be included as a party in any resulting civil litigation?

Dog bites and lawsuits

It’s no secret that dogs attack people for a variety of reasons. It’s also no secret that there is a plethora of civil lawsuits against dog owners for their pets’ behavior from those injured by the dog attack. But what about the landlord? Can the landlord also be sued in court for damages to a person caused by a renter’s dog?

Although landlords are not immediately held responsible for the actions of their tenants’ dogs, a landlord can be held liable under certain circumstances. Whereas the dog owner will always bear responsibility, the landlord too can hold accountability under the following circumstances:

  • The landlord knew of the dog’s aggressive or vicious nature.
  • The landlord failed to remove the dog after discovering aggressiveness
  • The landlord was taking care of the dog in a manner consistent with the owner

In all cases, it comes down to the duty of the landlord to ensure safe premises for all visitors to the property. If the plaintiffs can prove the landlord breached that duty, the landlord may be named in a civil suit.

What should landlords do?

Every landlord has a legal responsibility to ensure his or her premises are safe for all who reside and visit there. Oftentimes, landlords simply employ a strict no-pet policy to help protect themselves. If a landlord chooses to allow tenants to have dogs and other animals, the landlord must ensure the dog is not aggressive or vicious by conducting regular, documented inspections, and he or she must also ensure that the animal will pose no harm to other tenants or visitors to the property.