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(TNS)—Q: We own a rental house and allow renters to bring their medium and small dogs. Who would be liable if a renter’s dog bites and injuries another visitor on our property, such as the landscaper or another guest on the property? — Anne

A: A landlord will usually not be liable if their tenant’s dog injures someone. However, there are exceptions to this general rule.

If you are aware your tenant has a dangerous animal and do not have it removed from the home, you could be held responsible if someone is injured. You could also be held liable if you are aware someone is breaking the lease and do not put a stop to it.

For example, you said your lease is for small and medium dogs, and you know that your tenant brought a large dog, and you do not do anything to enforce the restrictions. If this large dog bites someone, you could be on the hook.

If you help take care of the dog, such as taking him for a walk or feeding her when your tenant is at work, and the dog later attacks someone, you could be held liable.
This is another reason that every landlord should treat renting as a business and not become friends or get involved with their tenant’s life.

When renting to a tenant with a pet, screen the pet along with the prospective tenant. You should also require your tenant to get renters insurance that includes liability protection.

Finally, enforce the terms of your lease. Letting your tenant slide on the agreed rules can cause you to be held liable if something goes wrong.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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