Landlords are often hesitant to rent to anyone with dogs. Not just because there is a risk for damage to the property, but because allowing a dog on their property creates a layer of liability that most landlords would prefer to avoid. While this is a valid concern, there are only some instances where a landlord could be liable for the actions of a tenant’s dog. If you have been attacked by a dog and the owner is renting the property, you may be entitled to sue for compensation from the renter or landlord – but deciding which route is best requires the assistance of an attorney. This is because certain factors must be at play in order for you to file a suit against the landlord.
Who is Liable?
In the majority of dog attack cases, when a dog causes injuries to another, the owner of the dog is the sole individual responsible for those injuries. This is especially true if this is the first time the dog has exhibited vicious behavior or attacked anyone. The same is true if a tenant were to get into a physical altercation with someone. If the tenant were to fight someone and injure him or her, it is the tenant who would be criminally and civilly responsible – not the landlord, since the landlord cannot control the actions of his or her tenants or their pets. Therefore, the landlord could not be considered negligent under the law.
Leasing the property to a tenant with a dog is not enough to hold a landlord responsible for the tenant’s actions (or inactions).
When is a Landlord Liable?
There are instances when a landlord can be held liable for a tenant’s dog attack. Generally, the courts in Pennsylvania will only allow a claim against the landlord if:
- The landlord knew that the dog was dangerous and should have removed the dog;
- The landlord specifically cared for the dog or had some control over the dog;
- The landlord allowed a dog onto the property that was deemed a “dangerous dog” for previous attacks.
If the landlord is responsible, then the liability coverage of his or her homeowner’s insurance may cover the loss.
Proving Your Case
In order to hold the landlord responsible, you must first prove that the landlord knew that the dog was dangerous, and that the landlord had the ability (legally) to remove the dog from the property. Sometimes, this falls under the category of a landlord being required to keep the property in safe condition.
To be held liable, the landlord must have actual knowledge that the dog is dangerous, which means that he or she must have known that the dog was a risk to others and was likely to attack. Dogs are not always presumed dangerous.. So, unless you can prove that the landlord had actual knowledge of the dog’s dangerous behavior, it may be difficult to hold him or her liable.
If the landlord was aware that the dog was dangerous and let the dog remain on the property, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff dog bite victim to show that the landlord had actual knowledge. This can be done by showing past attacks by that dog, police reports, or a previous attack on the same property with the same landlord.
In some cases, showing that the dog’s behavior is particularly threatening could be enough – especially if you can prove that the landlord knew the dog had threatening behavior. Consider the following: The landlord frequently visited the premises OR lived on the premises and had interactions with the dog, and saw the dog exhibit aggressive behavior. In this example, the landlord would be considered negligent.
Were You Injured by a Renter’s Dog? Contact an Attorney Right Away
If you or a loved one was injured by a dog owned by a renter, you need an attorney to explore your options and help determine if you can hold the landlord responsible for the actions of the tenant’s pet. Contact Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. today. He has helped countless families recover from their vicious dog attacks, and can help you too. Contact him now on his cell phone at 215-771-0430, or in the office at 215-987-3550. You can also ask a question online.