Animal question

19 Replies

This is my first time trying to do land lording, If a prospective renter has a dog and it bites someone on or off the property, can the landlord be held liable? I understand this isn't professional legal advice and I would need an attorney to be 100% . Does anyone have thoughts or past experiences? Thanks guys.

My best guess is YES.  When the victim of the bite seeks compensation they will most likely go after whomever has the best likelihood of having a dime to their name. The property owner would certainly come up!

If you find an insane judge, sure they could actually agree that you are somehow responsible for someone else's dog. But honestly, I think you have a much bigger chance of this NOT happening to you than happening. 

Have good insurance. Meet the dog. Does it behave well? If so, then don't worry over what-ifs. How are the potential tenants? The dog is typically a reflection of the people.

Thanks for the replies guys. I meet them this Saturday and they have a pit bull who they swear is the nicest dog around. I don't have anything against pits but it made me think of that situation.

I personally require the pets be spayed/neutered. And if they're not, don't believe the promises that they will be soon. Dogs and cats can be fixed as soon as they're adoptable...waiting until they are a "year or two old" is BS. Also require proof of vaccination from the vet. If they are responsible, this is easy stuff to provide anyway. I suggest you meet the mutt and see his/her temperament for yourself...even if it's not a Pit.

@James Cheatham  I recommend you type "pit bull" in the BP search box and read the many forum posts about pit bulls. You will be enlightened!

There's lots of mixed reviews on Pits....and lots of hate on Pits...even here (or especially here). Just remember...it's still a dog like any other dog breed. Use your best judgement. I think the best thing to keep in mind is that the dog is typically a reflection of the people. Some people let their pets (and kids) do whatever they want. You should know these things up front.

I have never met an applicant that didn't say their dog being the nicest tamest friendiest dog ever.

@James Cheatham   I agree with @Nicole W. , it is better to prevent than the chance of a lawsuit. In addition to Nicole's recommendations, you should have a clear "Pet Policy" in your rent application qualifying standards, including the type of animal and the Pet deposit(s). For example, we state that, due to insurance policies, we do not accept the following dog species: Pit bull, Rottweiler, German shepherd, Husky, Doberman, Chow, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Akita and any Wolf type.

Currently we are debating to include a "No Cats" policy.

Good luck!

Just a tip regarding insurance: Statefarm does not discriminate against breeds.

Get proof of liability insurance from them, annually, if you do decide to lease to them.

Renter's Insurance with high liability value. Verified annually.

Vaccination records up to date. Regular verification.

Refundable deposit. Pick a number. I've paid as much as $500 deposit. Monthly "pet fees" are douchebaggery at best.

No male cats or dogs. Neutering just doesn't deter some behaviors.

All animals spayed.

Dogs must be crated when renter not at home.

Landscape damage (holes, shrubs, etc.) is at renter's expense. Renter is responsible for keeping yard clean of feces.

Controversial, but I suggest cats be declawed.

Large dogs with sweet dispositions can still be destructive if the owner is not around. (Usually anxiety driven. I have a Border Collie who rearranges rugs and bed coverings to get my attention. Also have a sweet but scary Weimaraner watchdog with 1.5 inch claws and serious teeth who acts out by going through drywall in seconds when ignored.)

Interview the prospective tenant and the pet together at the property before renting. Observe.

The word of the day must be "douche". I was just reading another thread using that word. But really, @Joe G Rampy  , I don't think charging a monthly pet fee is douchebagery at best. I don't think I do douchey things. In fact, for the type of tenants I have, they prefer a monthly fee over a big deposit to pay up front on top of the security deposit....on top of the first month's rent to move in! They just don't have that kind of cash up front, but can pay it monthly. Works out for them, and depending how long they stay, works out for me because I get even more money.

Also, both female and male cats can spray. If a neutered male is still spraying, he most likely has a medical problem or he was just neutered and the testosterone levels have not fully come down yet because the procedure was so recent. They usually stop spraying within a few months of being neutered.  Have you own opinions and rules, but don't spread misinformation.

As for the claws, the cat typically is going to claw up their furniture...and yeah, maybe your carpet. Hard-surface floors would be a much better choice in rentals anyway though.

It's true--Pitt bull dogs are very different from other breeds -

they are by nature alot sweeter and more gentle...

unless trained otherwise .

I  know, i have 2.

Originally posted by @Nicole W.:

As for the claws, the cat typically is going to claw up their furniture...and yeah, maybe your carpet. Hard-surface floors would be a much better choice in rentals anyway though.

I have 2 cats.  If you keep their nails cut, and provide them with scratching posts and training, they will not damage the house.  De-clawing is cruel.

@Dawn Anastasi  Oh I agree! I was (poorly) trying to make the point that a cat isn't typically going to claw up the entire house except maybe carpet. It's not like they go for walls usually. :P I would not advocate declawing cats either and tell that to any people who ask about it at the local animal shelter where I volunteer. I have one male, clawed kitty and one Pit Bull....the epitome of terrible! haha

have the cats wear boxing gloves.

How did things go? Hope you got a favourable result.

Hey guys appointment is tomorrow, so we will see. Great info and knowledge! 

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.

By signing up, you indicate that you agree to the BiggerPockets Terms & Conditions.