Many people like to get cats, dogs, or even exotic pets to live in their apartment or other rental. Some landlords allow these pets to entice more applicants to their properties. However, you must protect yourself from the liability that comes with animals.
1. Tenant Liability
In most cases, the tenant is responsible for the pet they choose to keep. For example, you have a tenant with a medium-sized dog named Fluffy. Fluffy is usually friendly and wags her tail at everyone who comes by. One day, Fluffy bites a visitor for seemingly no reason. The tenant is responsible to pay for any medical costs from the incident and the landlord isn’t likely to be held liable.
2. When the Landlord Becomes Responsible
If Fluffy had been a breed considered dangerous and had a history of aggression, the landlord could be held liable if they knew about it. If the landlord allows a dog breed banned by a city ordinance, he or she could be liable if an incident occurs.
A landlord could be held responsible if they receive complaints about a dog and no action is taken. While any pet can be a problem, dogs are most often the animal that causes problems for other tenants or outsiders. If the renter keeps the pet and it creates an incident while in their care, they could be held responsible.
3. How to Protect Yourself
State laws vary based on what they interpret as a landlord’s responsibility. It can be helpful to review previous cases involving dogs to learn how they were resolved and who was held responsible.
You can also check with on a potential tenant who has a dog to see if any previous cases have been made against the owner for the animal. If you find a civil or criminal case involving the dog, you have grounds to refuse the application.
Another way to protect yourself is to require certain paperwork. You can ask for tag numbers, proof of vaccination and rental insurance that covers dog bites. By having this information in the tenant’s file, it shows you took reasonable action to ensure the safety of other tenants when you accepted a dog on the property.
If you have a tenant with a dog that has proven to be viscous, unsociable, and a possible menace, you can require the tenant to get rid of the dog or evict the tenant. Your ability to take this step will depend on local and state laws, so check with an attorney or another expert before taking drastic measures.
You may not want to move right to eviction if you can find other methods of protecting yourself and others. You can build a fence around the property—either bearing the cost or sharing it with the tenant. You can post signs warning passersby and visitors of a dog on property.
The decision to allow tenants to keep a dog in their rental units can be a difficult one. There are many aspects to consider, not the least of which is whether the landlord will be held liable if an incident happens with the dog. Make sure you know your level of responsibility and take any extra measures to protect yourself.
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