Dog Law – Landlord Liability for Tenant’s Dogs

John owned an apartment building. Some of his tenants had pets, including dogs. Jake, one of John’s tenants, had a friendly little dog. One day, however, Jake’s little dog bit a construction contractor hired by John. The injury wasn’t serious, but the construction contractor required some medical treatment. Can John be held liable?

In residential real estate leases, it is not uncommon to find some type of pet restriction. Some leases contain a standard “no pets” clause, which prohibits tenants from keeping any pets whatsoever on the leased premises. Other leases contain variations, such as restrictions on the size of a pet a tenant may keep or on the number of pets a tenant may keep. Some landlords require tenants with pets to make an additional security deposit as a condition of keeping pets on the leased premises. Generally speaking, such restrictions are legal. Many landlords, however, allow tenants to keep dogs on the premises.


What is a landlord’s liability in the event a tenant’s dog inflicts an injury?

Typically, a landlord cannot be held liable for an injury inflicted by a tenant’s dog. In the fact scenario described above, John had no reason to know that Jake’s dog would inflict an injury on the construction contractor. Jake may be liable for his dog’s actions, but it is unlikely that John would be liable.

There may be certain circumstances, though, when a landlord will be liable for injuries inflicted by a tenant’s dog, such as:


    • if the landlord knew or had reason to know that a tenant’s dog was unreasonably dangerous


  • if the landlord maintained the dog for the tenant; in essence, a landlord may be liable if the landlord acted as the owner of the tenants’ dog

In most circumstances, if a landlord is found liable for injuries inflicted by a tenant’s dog, the landlord’s general liability insurance will cover the loss, at least in part.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.