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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is It True That I Am Responsible For My Renters' Pets?

“I’m thinking of renting my home. I heard that if the renters have pets and something happens, I am responsible. Can you find out if that is true?” While the staff of the Newton Falls Public Library cannot answer legal questions, we can direct the patron to materials which give them some answers.

Every landlord's legal guide by Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner & Janet Portman was a good place to begin. The book covers many questions faced by those planning on becoming landlords and contains a CD-Rom with forms to use. In reference to dangerous pets the authors say [pg. 20], “It’s not common, but you could be liable for the injuries caused by a tenant’s pet . . .” In reference to wild animals, if you become aware or should be aware of its presence “. . . a court will assume that you understood the danger, and you, may be liable if the animal causes injury and you fail to take steps to prevent it.” Leasing to pet owners is not discouraged by the book; only that the landlord be aware of potentially dangerous situations and take proper steps to prevent them, which may require having the tenants remove the animal or face eviction.

A Google search for “ohio landlord liability for tenants' dogs.” found the Injury Board Blog Network  and Attorney Dale Emch's Toledo Blade column,
Is Ohio landlord liable for personal injury resulting from dog bite? He states, “Assuming that we're talking about a single-family home that does not share any common area with other property owners, I don't think you'd be liable for a dog-bite injury caused by your tenant's dog. Under Ohio law, the owner, keeper, or harborer of a dog is liable for any injuries or damages caused by the dog, provided the person who was injured wasn't trespassing, attempting to commit a crime, or teasing the dog. The question is whether a landlord can be construed as a harborer. Almost all of the case law I found says that landlords are not harborers of a dog if the tenant has exclusive possession and control of the property. And, in most situations, tenants are deemed to have possession and control of rental property during the lease period.”

Since the information found for this patron seemed to conflict in some ways, the staff also recommended that the patron contact their insurance company or a legal professional to discuss this matter.

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