Rental Property Owners and Pet Liability: What You Need to Know

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Did you know that 4.5 million dog bites happen in the United States every year almost one million of those bites result in medical care?

There are some breeds to be wary of but there are also dog behaviors you'll want to avoid being around no matter the breed.

If you are a landlord, it's important to consider the risks of allowing tenants to move in with their pets. Will you be held liable if a tenant's pet injures someone?

Keep reading this rental property owners and pet liability guide to find out.

Rental Property Owners and Pet Liability

The reason that some landlords are reluctant to rent to pet owners that don't have support animals is the fear that the pet could injure someone.

When this happens on the owner's property, the landlord and the pet owner could end up paying for the injuries.

When it comes to rental property owners and pet liability, it's rare but not impossible for a landlord to be held liable for injuries inflicted by a tenant's pet.

Leasing to a pet owner is not enough to make a landlord legally responsible for the pet. For instance, if a tenant's "friendly" dog bites someone, the property owner is not held liable for the injury.

Courts will hold a landlord liable if they knew the pet was dangerous and could have had them removed. They may also be held liable if they kept or harbored the tenant's pet.

When a landlord is liable, the owner's liability insurance may cover the costs of injuries and any court appearances.

Having the Power to Remove the Pet

Someone trying to hold the property owner liable for injuries caused by a tenant's pet will have to prove that the landlord knew the pet was dangerous and had the legal power to remove the pet.

However, not all states follow this rule. Under some laws, landlords won't be held liable even if they knew the tenant's pet was likely to hurt someone.

In practice, proving that the landlord knew the pet was dangerous involves knowing that the pet had previously injured or threatened someone. Landlords that ignore this evidence might have to pay extra damages to the victim.

Harboring a Tenant's Pet

Landlord pet liability includes a situation where a property owner cares for a tenant's pet. They are then treated as the pet's legal owner and hold responsibility for injuries that the pet causes.

Merely renting to a pet-owning tenant doesn't qualify as harboring a tenant's pet. The landlord would have to feed, take care of, manage, or control the pet to be held liable.

Some courts rule based on this statute only and don't discuss whether or not the landlord knew the pet was dangerous.

Create Pet Policies to Protect Yourself

Rental property owners and pet liability is a complicated topic but there are ways for landlords to protect themselves.

You can decide whether or not to allow pet owners in your rental properties. If you do, make them pay for a pet rent that can cover smaller damage amounts. You can also only allow certain animals or animals of a certain size in your units.

To help you stay protected and make the right decisions when it comes to leasing to pet owners, hire our rental property management team.