One of the reasons landlords in California (and elsewhere) are hesitant to rent or lease to dog owners is the risk of being sued if a visitor is bitten by the dog. While it has happened, it is very rare that the landlord can be held liable for the actions of the tenant’s pet, according to our dog bite lawyers.

According to California law, a landlord can only be held liable if they knew that the dog was dangerous and if they could have had the dog removed. The other exception is if the landlord kept the dog for the tenant and had responsibility and control over the animal when it attacked someone. If Mrs. Smith’s labradoodle suddenly got upset and bit Mr. Jones, the liability falls on Mrs. Smith.

If the landlord is found liable through these circumstances, their property liability insurance will be required to pay the judgment.

Can a Landlord Legally Have a Dog Removed?

In order to hold the landlord responsible for a tenant’s dog attack, the victim must prove that the landlord “actually knew” that the dog was dangerous (i.e., the dog had bitten before). If, in fact, the landlord knew the dogs were dangerous, is that enough to make him liable? Not fully. If a landlord by lease or law has stipulations that prevent them from having the dogs removed, the courts cannot hold the landlord responsible.

Example 1: The landlord bought a rental property that already had a tenant, a dog, and a one year lease stipulating they could have the dog. This lease stops the landlord from being able to remove the dog until the lease is up. If the dog bites someone during that time period, the landlord cannot be held liable.

Example 2: The landlord owns a property, and the tenant has a dangerous dog and is on a month-to-month lease. The landlord can serve notice to not renew the lease unless the dog is removed. At the end of the month either the dog is removed, or the tenant and their dog are removed.

Some leases have animal clauses built in for this very reason. This clause states that the landlord has the right to demand the removal of animals on their property with a 48-hour notice. If this clause is in the lease and the landlord does not exercise it and removes a dog that is showing dangerous signs, the landlord can be held liable.

Other Ways the Landlord Could Be Responsible

If the animal escaped his home or yard due to improper maintenance of the property and bites someone, there is a good chance the landlord could be held liable. If they knew the dog was aggressive and the fenced in backyard was their territory, and they did not repair a section of the fence when it fell, the landlord was negligent.

Other situations sometimes come into play. If the landlord cannot remove the dog, but they can build a fenced in area and place signs to warn the neighbors, they are removing themselves from liability. Thus, the landlord is safe from prosecution.

If you have been injured by a dog, speak to a dog bite attorney today.