It's tough enough to be a landlord. Don't be your tenant's insurance company too!
If your tenant's dog bites someone, the victim is going to focus on you, the landlord, if the tenant doesn't have renters insurance or if there's not enough insurance. Your relationship with the tenant will be scrutinized under a microscope: what did you know about the tenant's dog, when did you learn it, why didn't you figure out that it wanted to bite people, how come didn't you fix the fence or the window or the door that it escaped from, how could you have not done this or that . . .
A tenant can lie and say that you knew about the dog, you were aware it had a tendency to nip people, you promised to patch the fence and replace the window and fix the door that the dog escaped from, etc. Some people will say just about anything to protect themselves.
You can protect yourself with something really simple, that you can download and use today. It is the Residential Lease Dog Clause, available right here. This is what it will do:
- Clearly prohibit dogs other than service dogs (and emotional support animals in states that require you to accomodate them).
- Establish that the landlord did not know that the dog was vicious.
- Prove that the tenant did not tell the landlord about any defect like a broken gate or fence.
- Require renter's insurance with proper terms and adequate coverage amounts.
- Establish reasonable guidelines for bringing new pets onto the premises.
- Make the tenant liable for damage by his pets and guests.
- Force the tenant to defend and indemnify against any lawsuits because of damage by his pets or his guests' pets.
- Enable the landlord to evict the tenant who has a dangerous animal of any kind.
The Residential Lease Dog Clause can protect a landlord from dog bite claims, but is not a substitute for insurance, and like any legal agreement should be reviewed by your own attorney. Nothing can guarantee that you will not be sued or that you will win every case, but the Residential Lease Dog Clause can decrease the odds against you.