Renting to Pitbull Owners

16 Replies

I have a rental property with tenants who are pitbull owners.  I've been around the dog a few times and never had any issues.  They have a toddler and the dog stays inside and say there has never been an issue with the dog.  My husband and I recently got an umbrella liability policy.  Our agent came to the house to get pictures of the rental property.  Knocked on the door of the rental to let them know she was there, the dog was inside and started barking (which I know is common with dogs, doesn't mean they'll do anything).  Tenant opened the door, held onto the dog by the collar (but I guess it continued barking) and she became scared.  She also told us that our insurance carrier would not cover that dog. 

We would like to keep the tenants because they're good tenants, pay on time, keep the place clean, etc.  The dog has wandered up to our house multiple times and it never showed aggression.  But after this incident we informed the tenant the dog had to be secured at all times.  No more wandering around.  It is either inside with them, on a leash, or on a cable.  Thus far we haven't had any issues.

So here is my question...if we do the following, do you all feel that we would covered for liability purposes if we write up a document stating the following?

1) Have them get a liability policy with the landlord as additional insured and proof of coverage, and proof that the dog is covered.  I'm thinking maybe a $500k policy.

2) A document stating that the dog has never shown aggression and if either the landlord or tenant sees signs of aggression, the dog will have to be removed from the property immediately or lease terminated immediately.

3) Post a Beware of Dog sign outside the home.

4) I need to figure out how to word this...but they need to secure the dog in a separate room before answering the door for visitors.

5) The tenant is responsible for securing the dog by whatever means necessary.  Furthermore the dog will never be outside the home in a situation where it is unsecured or unsupervised.

I can't think of anything else.  What do you guys think?  Sorry this is so long.  I'm a worrier. 

You have already accepted the tenant.  You have to live with that decision under the terms already agreed to in the lease.

@Amy Forst I’d issue them a nonrenewal and just find new tenants . If your going to be attackes by a dog there is a 86% chance its going to be a pittbull . The insurance compant isn’t going to cover them or you and you don’t need the liability or worry of that dog biting somebody especially that young kid living there .

@Amy Forst . Google Dangerous or threating dogs. Below is a link to dogs some Insurance Companies will not insure for: 

https://tinyurl.com/ya4jg5kp .

Below is the Verbiage I use in the Lease Application Package:

The following Breeds of Dogs are considered Dangerous and will NOT BE ACCEPTED under any circumstances. Pit Bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Doberman Pinscher, Chow, Presa Canario, Boxer, Dalmatian, Akita, Mastiff, Staffordshire Terrier. 

Originally posted by @Dennis M. :
@Amy Forst

I’d issue them a nonrenewal and just find new tenants . If your going to be attackes by a dog there is a 86% chance its going to be a pittbull . The insurance compant isn’t going to cover them or you and you don’t need the liability or worry of that dog biting somebody especially that young kid living there .

Not sure where you got that nonsense info, but actually, Labrador retrievers are the most common "attack" dogs. Pits can be absolutely lovely dogs.

https://chicagoinjurycenter.com/common-breeds

It sounds like you're trying to steer the conversation on the merits of certain dog breeds versus others, but the data is the data - despite any personal anecdotes people may share.  From the insurance company's standpoint, it's about numbers and business risk.  They are not making any value judgement about pit bulls; they are looking at data.  They've decided against taking on that risk and instead are passing that on to you, their client.

As landlording is a business, many of us choose not to add an additional risk component by prohibiting breeds of dogs the insurance data shows as a risk.  

Based on your relationship with this tenant (and your personal opinion on dog breeds), you are choosing to shoulder that risk by adding some conditions to their tenancy.  What you have suggested in the OP sounds good, but rest assured if there is an incident, the victim will sue the "deep pockets" landlord before the "blood from a stone" tenant.  Remember, it will still cost a lot of your time/money/aggravation to defend a lawsuit that you may eventually win.

Contingencies will not impact insurance companies policies. If/when a incident occurs you will be held liable.

The goal of investing is to reduce your risks as much as possible. When you have a obvious risk that is easily eliminated the correct business decisions is to eliminate the risk. The perceived risk of pit bulls is the issue not the actual risk. You say it has never showed any aggression then follow that with the fact that it required restraining when the agent was at the door. That is showing aggression. What do you suppose the dog would have done had it slipped out of the owners hand. It is not about contingencies it is a question of what if those contingencies are not successful. Separate your emotions from your business and get rid of the dog.

I would non renew their lease to reduce my risks.

Amy,

I think the issue that will probably decide it for you is whether or not you can get coverage with a tenant who has a Pit Bull.  We represent over 30 companies and I do not know of any of them that will write coverage on a property with a Pit Bull.  You need to find out if, your Insurance company finds out about the pit bull, what will happen.  There is a possibility that they would non-renew your coverage.  If there are not other companies in your state that will write the coverage you could be in real trouble. 

If you can find other companies willing to cover you, then you suggestion of having the tenant get a tenants policy is a good idea.  Just remember that it will not prevent you from being named in the suit.  Having the renters policy name you as an Additional Insured would push your initial loss onto their limit but should their coverage be exhausted, you could still be facing a loss. 

Originally posted by @Briana Nasman :
Originally posted by @Dennis M.:
@Amy Forst

I’d issue them a nonrenewal and just find new tenants . If your going to be attackes by a dog there is a 86% chance its going to be a pittbull . The insurance compant isn’t going to cover them or you and you don’t need the liability or worry of that dog biting somebody especially that young kid living there .

Not sure where you got that nonsense info, but actually, Labrador retrievers are the most common "attack" dogs. Pits can be absolutely lovely dogs.

https://chicagoinjurycenter.com/common-breeds

 Issue with pit bulls is when they do bite its a bad one... its not just a bite and run its a bite tear and wont let go..  its tough owing those dogs as a renter.. as stated landlords take a huge risk allowing them..   all dogs can be sweet and nice.. my G shepard was very sweet. my male golden bit 3 times in 14 years.. mainly kids screeching and running away from him and got a little nip in the leg more instinct I guess.

Originally posted by @Briana Nasman :
Originally posted by @Dennis M.:
@Amy Forst

I’d issue them a nonrenewal and just find new tenants . If your going to be attackes by a dog there is a 86% chance its going to be a pittbull . The insurance compant isn’t going to cover them or you and you don’t need the liability or worry of that dog biting somebody especially that young kid living there .

Not sure where you got that nonsense info, but actually, Labrador retrievers are the most common "attack" dogs. Pits can be absolutely lovely dogs.

https://chicagoinjurycenter.com/common-breeds

and one of my chihuahuas bites like crazy and I mean I lost count how many times he bit me .. and nipped at kids.. he is mean. 

I would not be asking on a forum ( even BP). I would be picking up the phone and calling my Ins broker and my attorney. 

@Amy Forst if your insurance carrier will not cover a pitbull, you need to either find an insurance company that will or get rid of the dog. I know these are good tenants, but are they so good that you would willingly pay $100,000 out of pocket to cover a bite claim? I doubt they're that good! Jay is right; there are plenty of very nice pit bulls that never cause problems but when they do it can be devastating. There are people that have raised bears and tigers that are extremely docile and never cause any problems...until they do. Certain animals, and certain breeds of animals, have a significantly higher risk of injuring or killing people in those animals should not be allowed in your rentals, particularly when your insurance makes it clear they will not cover you.