Dangerous Dogs: Does the Landlord Pay for Damages?

There are more than 1.5 million dogs in the city of New York. Many of them live in apartment buildings where, most likely, they will come into daily contact with other tenants. Dog bites happen rarely, but often enough that some landlords refuse to rent to dog-owner households. These landlords worry that they, as well as the dog’s owner, will be responsible for damages if the dog causes injury to another person in the building. Holding a property owner responsible for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog is a form of premises liability .

When Is the Landlord Liable?

Landlords may be held responsible for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog, but only under certain conditions. Merely leasing property to a tenant with a dog does not, in and of itself, expose the landlord to liability. For example, if the tenant’s dog appears friendly but ends up biting someone, the landlord is not responsible for the resulting injury. To succeed in a lawsuit against a landlord for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog you would have to show

  • That the landlord knew the dog was dangerous and was legally able to make the tenant get rid of the dog or move out; or
  • That the landlord “harbored” or “kept” the tenant’s dog by caring for it or by exercising some control over it.

A landlord who knows only that a tenant’s dog is kept tied up and barks at passersby does not necessarily know that the dog is dangerous and will not be held liable for injuries caused by the dog. To prove liability, you have to show that the landlord had actual knowledge that the dog was dangerous and that it had already threatened or injured someone.

In one case, a landlord was caring for the dogs of a prospective tenant when they threatened his own grandchild. In spite of this, the landlord rented to the tenants and the dogs severely injured another child. The court held that the landlord had created a clear risk of injury by renting to the tenants and was therefore liable for damages. In another case, a six year-old girl living in a trailer park was seriously mauled by her neighbor’s two dogs. The jury found that the owners of the mobile home park had shown a blatant disregard for the safety of their tenants and awarded punitive damages on top of compensatory damages for the child’s injuries.

Ask an Experienced Attorney

A landlord or property owner who ignores obvious signs that a tenant’s dog is dangerous does so at his own risk. If the dog hurts another tenant, the landlord or property owner should be held accountable for his failure to take action. If you or a loved one has been injured by a tenant’s dog, seek medical attention immediately and consult a knowledgeable attorney. The attorneys at the Orlow firm are highly experienced in personal injury law. They offer free initial consultations and operate four offices across New York City for your convenience. They can go to you if you cannot come to them. To contact the Orlow firm, call (800) 504-9590.