THE LANDLORDS LIABILITY FOR A DOG BITE
Frequently we get 911 calls from non clients who are self managing owners, who are panicking due to a lawsuit caused by their tenant’s dog biting a guest on the property.
Most recently, this common question took on a higher level of concern since this owner did not have insurance, a written lease, nor a pet agreement ( 3 more reasons why property management should be left to the professionals like Octazon).
So how much trouble is such an owner in when a dog bites a visitor to the property? Is the Landlord Liable for Dog Bites? Is the Property Owner responsible for tenants’ dangerous pets? ( To learn more about tenants with dangerous dogs see our earlier blog here).
Florida Statute Chapter 767, specifically deals with damage caused by dogs and creates a strict liability for the owner of a dog (which means if a dog bites someone, the owner of the dog is held liable for all damage and injuries). Simply put, there is no mulligan or do over for the owner of the dog because the owner never expected its dog to bite someone. Ignorance in this case is not bliss.
But this statute really addresses the owner of the dog and their liability for dog bites or other injuries to a person, and doesn’t address the owner of the property – the landlord. Is the landlord also responsible and held culpable for the tenant’s conduct – for the tenant’s negligence and carelessness?
Based upon the statute and even case law, the landlord’s liability is unclear. However, it appears that the liability of landlord is governed by the knowledge of the landlord that (a) the tenant had a dog and (b) the dog had a propensity to bite.
If the landlord truly had no knowledge of any dog, then the landlord should not be liable for the damage caused to others by the tenant’s dog. But if the landlord did have knowledge of a dog, the question then arises, should the landlord have known that the dog was dangerous, aggressive, had a history of causing problems, bit another person or pet before, etc?
If the landlord knew the tenant had a dog, BUT had no knowledge that the tenant’s dog was dangerous, aggressive, etc…, the injured person will likely have a tough time holding the owner of the property liable under Florida Statutes or under a negligence theory – despite the landlord knowing the tenant had a dog.
So in this caller’s situation, the focus of a lawsuit would be on the knowledge of the landlord –did the landlord know the tenant had a dog and whether the dog had a propensity to bite or if it was a dangerous breed. If it can be proven that the landlord had knowledge of the dog and that it had a propensity to bite, then case law has held the landlord liable for dog bites. Unfortunately, the entire case would turn upon these set of facts -what did the landlord know and what did the landlord do. Proving your version of the events may be quite expensive.
The case called Jerry Knoble v. Sue A Yorke 490 So. 2nd 29 (SC of Fla. 1986), is an important case regarding liability. Additionally, there are numerous other cases which parse the issue depending on landlord’s knowledge, landlord’s knowledge of viciousness and landlord’s posting of “Bad Dog” signs in the event of knowledge of a vicious dog warning of viciousness. Also, if the bite took place off of the property of the landlord and in the easement owned by the city that would be another out for the landlord.
About Octazon: Whether you own a few properties or hundreds of properties in Florida, Octazon Management, LLC is here to simplify property ownership and management. We can help you manage any and all of your properties. At Octazon we provide simplicity & peace of mind. Octazon uses cutting edge, cloud based property management software that fully integrates the entire property management and financial process enabling the investor direct access to valuable owner/investor information 24/7.
When providing management services to Realtors, Octazon will NOT provide the leasing, rentals or sales – so you never have to worry about losing control of your relationship with the owner.
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