Tenant’s Rights and Dog Bites

What happens if you are bitten by another tenant’s dog? Do you give up your tenant’s rights?

The other tenant is generally responsible when his or her dog bites you. Few tenants, however, have adequate insurance or other assets to pay you for your injuries. In an article I coauthored in Plaintiff Magazine, I explored another possible source of compensation, the landlord, who will often have insurance or adequate assets.

According to the law, the owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog. While this seems to only apply to a dog’s owner, a landlord might still be liable under what is called “premises liability.”

Landlords may be liable

Landlords could be liable if they have knowledge of the dog’s vicious nature and if they have the ability to control the animal’s presence at the rental property. Landlords are obligated to conduct reasonable inspections for dangerous conditions, which include tenant’s vicious dogs.

What degree of care is owed by a landlord to control the tenant’s animals? A landlord’s liability depends upon the legal elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages.

What the Courts have found

Under some circumstances, a landlord can be held negligent when a tenant’s dog bites a person. For example, the landlord might have been taking care of the dog, or might have failed to make repairs to a gate or fence, or may simply permit the animal to be present on the premises despite knowledge of its propensity for biting. Courts have found liability where a tenant’s dog bites someone and the landlord had actual knowledge of the dog’s viciousness prior to the attack. Courts, however, limited the landlord’s liability to situations in which the landlord had the right to prevent the presence of the animal on the premises.

Consider consulting an attorney

Given that a landlord’s liability for a tenant’s dog’s bite centers on the landlord’s knowledge of the animal’s vicious nature and ability to control the animal’s presence, your attorney should explore both of these issues carefully. If you have been bitten by another tenant’s dog, consider seeing an experienced tenant attorney who can look at the specific issues of your case.




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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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