Q: We have a rental house and we allow tenants to bring their own medium and small dogs. Who will be responsible if the renter’s dog bites and injures another visitor to our property, such as a landscape designer or other guest on the property?
BUT: The landlord is usually not responsible if the tenant’s dog injures someone. However, there are exceptions to this general rule.
If you know that your renter has a dangerous animal and you do not want to take it out of the house, you may be held liable if someone is injured. You can also be held liable if you know that someone is violating the lease and do not stop it.
For example, you said that your lease is for small to medium sized dogs, but if you know that your tenant has brought a large dog with them and you are not doing anything to enforce the restrictions, this can be problematic.
If this large dog bites someone, you may be hooked.
If you help care for the dog, such as taking it for a walk or feeding it when your tenant is at work and the dog later attacks someone, you may be held accountable.
This is another reason every homeowner should treat renting like a business and not become friends and interfere with their tenant’s life.
When renting out to a tenant with a pet, review it with the potential tenant. You must also require your renter to obtain renter insurance, which includes liability protection.
Finally, enforce the terms of the lease. Letting the tenant adhere to the agreed rules can lead to holding you accountable if something goes wrong.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and is certified by the Florida Bar Association as an expert in real estate law. He handles real estate, litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is Chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and co-host of the weekly radio program Legal News and Review. “He frequently consults on general issues and trends in real estate in Florida with various companies across the country. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.