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Landlord Liability for Injuries Caused by Tenant’s Dog (Bright v. Maznik)
Is a landlord liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog? A landlord rented property to a tenant who owned a dog. The landlord had no prior knowledge of any concerns about the dog biting people or any other problems. However, one day the dog lunged past its owner who had just opened the door and bit the person knocking on the door.
A landlord is liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog under some circumstances. The Idaho Supreme Court pointed out that the state dog bite statute makes the both the owner of a vicious dog and the “owner of the premises” liable for injuries caused by a vicious dog when the vicious dog is “harbored” outside a secured enclosure.
The Idaho Supreme Court did not address whether the dog was vicious, but whether the landlord “harbored” the tenant’s dog. The court defined harbored to mean an undertaking to control the dog. The court found that the landlord did nothing to undertake to control its tenant’s dog. Further, the lease between the landlord and tenant placed the burden on the tenant to keep the dog under control, attended, and restrained and to keep the dog from causing any annoyance to others. The court held that a landlord is not liable under the dog bite statute by ownership of the property alone and cited the Restatement of Tors in support:
“[T]he possession of the land on which the animal is kept, even when coupled with permission given to a third person to keep it, is not enough to make the possessor of the land liable as a harborer of the animal.”). Restatement (Second) of Torts § 514, cmt. a (1977).
The court also addressed whether a landlord has a duty to protect visitor’s from its tenant’s dog. The court noted that a property owner may have a duty to protect others from a dog if the property owner had notice of the dog’s vicious or dangerous propensity, even if the property owner is not the dog’s owner. The court found that the landlord had no knowledge that its tenant’s dog was dangerous.
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