Can the landlord be liable if the tenant’s dog bites or otherwise harms someone?
Answer: Possibly. Under California law, an owner of any dog is liable if a person is bitten by a dog in a public place or while lawfully on the private property of the owner. A person who is lawfully on the private property of the owner could include someone invited on to the property or, for example, a postal worker delivering the mail. (Cal. Civ. Code section 3342). This liability is a form of “strict liability” as the owner is liable even if the dog had never acted in a vicious manner before or had ever bitten anyone previously.
Assuming the landlord is not the owner of the dog, the landlord could be liable only if he or she knows about the dangerous propensities of the dog and could have removed the dog from the premises prior to the dog harming someone. So for example, if the landlord is getting complaints that the dog’s owner cannot control the dog and the dog has bitten a tenant, there could be potential liability to the owner, if the owner does not take steps to have the dog removed. The owner does not, however, have an obligation to affirmatively check, examine or otherwise evaluate the dog to find out about its nature or tendencies when renting the property to a tenant with a dog. (Uccello v. Laudenslayer (1975) 44 Cal.App.3d 504.)
By Harrison K. Long – Attorney member of the CA State Bar Association #69137. Also a professional real estate representative, Realtor, real estate broker, and professional real estate representative at Orange County CA. Source of information is the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
This post about California law and is for information only and is not the providing of legal services. If you have questions about your own situation, you should contact an experienced real estate attorney.