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Am I liable if a person I rent a room to has a dog that bites someone on my property?

Q:

I rent a room in my house to a friend that has a pitbull. If his dog bites someone on my property, am I in any way held liable for his dog biting someone?

A:

Generally, landlords are not held liable for the conduct of a tenant’s pet unless the landlord had knowledge that the tenant kept a dangerous animal, the landlord had the right to have the animal removed from the premises, and the landlord failed to do so. However, courts distinguish the facts in each case to determine liability. When a landlord lives in the same building as the leased premises, it is more difficult for a landlord to argue that he/she did not know of a dog’s dangerous propensities (that’s assuming, of course, that the dog exhibited such tendencies). Since one cannot predict how every judge will decide every case and because injured persons sometimes sue not only the dog’s ‘owner’ but the landlord as well, it is important for landlords (and tenants too) to procure liability insurance. It is also important that one make sure that the insurance policy includes dog bites, covers the breed of dog that is kept on the premises, and includes defense costs (including attorneys' fees). Even if a landlord is not ultimately held responsible for the actions of a tenant’s dog, the cost to defend a lawsuit could be substantial---all the more reason to have sufficient insurance coverage.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

 

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