Need Help with Tenant Issue

7 Replies

Hey BP, I just had a tenant move in within the last couple weeks and have a situation. There are three pitbulls next door to them that are always outside and bark obnoxiously. Our tenant has two dogs of her own and contacted us yesterday that the pitbulls got through the fence and attacked her dog (The fence between my property and the neighbors is kinda flimsy). She had to take her dog to the vet because the pitbulls were not friendly when they got through the fence. My question is what is my role as a landlord in this situation? Here's a couple thoughts that I'm having.

Do I put up a fence so this is no longer an issue?

Do I talk to the neighbor and ask him to put up a fence?

Do I get the police involved and tell the neighbor that he needs to keep his dogs under control or put up a fence?

Do I not get involved and leave this issue between my tenants and their new neighbor?

Any help is appreciated as I ultimately want to be a good landlord and my tenants to feel safe in their new residence.

The short version is, the neighbors are almost certainly responsible, and the tenant can / should go after them. 

At a minimum, they should pay the vet bill. Pit bulls may be a restricted breed in the neighborhood - and even if they're not, it should be on record that they've already broken loose and attacked someone's dog. Next time they get out, they might go after a kid. 

But, asking a lawyer is definitely the right thing to do on your end. 

The first thing the attorney will ask you is who owns the fence. The easiest way to tell, though not 100% accurate, is the side of the fence that the poles or posts are on is usually the party that owns the fence. If you own the fence, then talk to your insurance and an attorney and they wil tell you to put up a new one. If it is not your fence, then the other property owner has the responsibility for the fence.

It is up to the tenant to seek redress from the neighbor. As @Russ B. mentioned. the pit bulls mak have special limitations. Call the local Animal Regulation for the answer and to file any complaints. this is not a police issue.

Jeff, your response is not entirely accurate.  There is case law that determined that a fence can be purely for esthetics, not containment, ergo no liability for breach.  Case law also supports 'grandfathered' fences that are inherited through the property purchase and passed inspection at transfer.  Etc.  Common Law however would dictate this: My neighbor's fence is my neighbor's fence.  If I need to contain an animal, then it's up to me to manage that, not my neighbor.  In lieu of some upside down local law, this is exactly how a judge would comment just before dismissing a civil action.

Containment of animals falls squarely on the animal's owner and no one else without regard as to the direction the fence posts face.  Insurance companies are the last place to take advice on legal matters. And I might add, some lawyers give bad advice as well.

You are a landlord, you deal with housing related issues - not criminal or personal issues. 
If a vehicle drove through your house and accidentally killed a tenant's pet in the process, the only thing you should be focused on is working with insurance to get your house built back to what it was pre-accident. Let insurance and police and lawyers do their jobs with all the other stuff. 

If their dogs get attacked (whether it be by a neighbouring pitbull or a hawk or a car through the house) it is not your responsibility to find a resolution. The onus is on the owner for their pets, children, belongings etc. 

Originally posted by @Austin Hanse :

Hey BP, I just had a tenant move in within the last couple weeks and have a situation. There are three pitbulls next door to them that are always outside and bark obnoxiously. Our tenant has two dogs of her own and contacted us yesterday that the pitbulls got through the fence and attacked her dog (The fence between my property and the neighbors is kinda flimsy). She had to take her dog to the vet because the pitbulls were not friendly when they got through the fence. My question is what is my role as a landlord in this situation? Here's a couple thoughts that I'm having.

Do I put up a fence so this is no longer an issue?

Do I talk to the neighbor and ask him to put up a fence?

Do I get the police involved and tell the neighbor that he needs to keep his dogs under control or put up a fence?

Do I not get involved and leave this issue between my tenants and their new neighbor?

Any help is appreciated as I ultimately want to be a good landlord and my tenants to feel safe in their new residence.

 Has nothing to do with you. It's between your tenant and the owner of the other dogs.