A Landlord’s Liability for Injuries Inflicted by A Tenant’s Dog

In most circumstances, a landlord is not liable for injuries inflicted by a tenants dog. Just leasing a premises to a tenant with a dog usually is not enough, by itself, to make a landlord responsible for a tenants dog. For example, if a Tenant’s friendly dog bites someone, the landlord is not liable for any injuries sustained.

In general, when a tenant’s dog injures someone, Ohio courts have held the landlord liable only if the landlord:

1) Knew the dog was dangerous and could have had the dog removed;

2) “harbored” or “kept” the tenant’s dog (that is, cared for or had some control over the dog).

Landlord Liability for Tenant’s Dog:

1) The landlord had knowledge of the animal’s presence and its dangerous tendencies and had control of the premises or otherwise had the ability to eliminate the danger by having the animal removed or confined.

2) The landlord had knowledge that the animal was a pit bull and had control of the premises or otherwise had the ability to eliminate the danger by having the animal removed or confined.

3) The landlord had an obligation to make a repair or take any other action which if the repair or other action had been completed reasonably would have prevented the incident from happening. For example, if the landlord failed to repair a gate and the vicious dog ran from behind the gate and the dog bit a person who was on the common ground of the premises.

4) the landlord did not make a repair or take other action which the landlord had undertaken voluntarily and the landlords inaction or negligent incompletion increased the risk of the accident happening.

5) The landlord prohibited dogs because of an awareness that any dogs would prevent risk of injury on a particular property or that certain breeds of dogs inflict substantial damage when they attack people or other dogs, but the landlord failed to enforce the prohibition and the injury was caused by a dog that was prohibited.

Case of Parker v Sutton, 72 Ohio App.3d 296 (1991)

In Parker v Sutton, 72 Ohio App.3d 296 (1991), the court of appeals of Ohio, Lucas County, held that an Ohio landlord is not liable for injuries caused when the tenants dog bit a child even though the landlord knew the dog had bitten another child nine days earlier. The landlord stated in sworn statements that they thought the dog had been destroyed after the first incident. The Court ruled that this was a reasonable belief that meant that they had no duty to take any further action.

The Appellants claimed that the Landlords had failed to exercise ordinary care when they had not forced their tenants to remove the dog from the premises. Sworn affidavits from each of the tenants involved confirmed that the tenants were the owner of the premises, that the property was rented to the tenants, and further indicated that the landlords did not occupy or retain possession or control of the property while their tenants were living there and that Landlords were aware that the tenants had a dog but they did not feed, care for or exercise any control over the dog.

The landlords, in their affidavits, also confirmed that they had some knowledge of a prior incident involving the dog and another child but indicated that they had been informed after the first incident that the dog had been destroyed.

Case of Garread v McComas (1982), 5 Ohio App.3d 179

The Court of Appeals reviewed a previous case of Garread v McComas (1982), 5 Ohio App.3d 179. In that case, summary judgment was sustained for the owner/landlord. The Plaintiffs claimed that the landlord was negligent because the dogs owned by one of his tenants caused Plaintiff to be injured as she ran from them.

The Court noted that the landowner had established rules for the maintenance of animals owned by tenants of his property but that the landlords conduct did not constitute ownership or the exercise of control over the dogs. While the court, under the facts in Garread found that the landlord was not liable for injuries caused by the tenants dogs, the Court of Appeals confirmed that there were situations where landlord liability would exist.

Vicious Animal Kept by Tenant (1977), 81 A.L.R. 3d 638

The Court reviewed all of the cases generally discussed in Annotation Landlord’s Liability to Third Persons for Injury Resulting From Attacks by Dangerous or Vicious Animal Kept by Tenant (1977), 81 A.L.R. 3d 638. Based on the Court of Appeals review of all of the cases gathered in the Annotation, they found that generally a landlord may not be found liable for injuries to a third person occasioned by a vicious or dangerous animal kept by a tenant on the premises within the tenants exclusive control.

However, the Annotation did indicate that a landlord may be held liable for injuries caused by a dangerous or vicious dog kept by a tenant where the landlord had knowledge of the dog and its vicious propensities coupled with the ability to abate the hazard. The court found that a landlord’s liability has also been established in situations where the dog attacks had occurred in areas within the landlord’s control or in an area that may be shared by the landlord or the tenant.

Based on their review of all of this case law and all of the Annotations referenced, the Court of Appeals found that the landlord was not responsible when the tenant was in exclusive control of the premises. However, the Court found that situations exist where a landlord has the ability to abate the hazard within a reasonable period of time or when the premises is in the joint control of the landlord and tenant that may give rise to landlord liability.

Based on their analysis of the case law, the Court held that the Landlords were not in control of the premises and never exercised any control over the premises or over the dog in question. While it could be argued that the landlord had a duty to abate any hazard which existed when they received notice of the first incident of the dog causing injury to a third person, the Court found that the undisputed evidence indicated that the landlords believed the dog had been destroyed following that incident. Under those circumstances, the Court found that the landlord had no duty to act further.

Based on these findings of law and based on the undisputed facts, in this case, the Court of Appeals held that a landlord not in possession of a leased premise may not be held liable under common law principles of negligence for injuries caused to a third person by a vicious dog owned by a tenant when it established that the premises were in the exclusive control of the tenant at the time of the injury.

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