Cana landlord be sued ifa tenant’sdog bites someone?

UPDATED: Apr 21, 2011

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Cana landlord be sued ifa tenant’sdog bites someone?

My daughter owns a 4-plex and I rent a unit from her. I have renter’s insurance that covers liability if my dog were to bite someone. Could a victim sue my daughter (landlord) if my dog were to bite someone?

Asked on April 21, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The answer is - maybe.  As usual it depends upon the circumstances.  First of all, the applicable CA statute says that the owner of a dog (not anyone else) is responsible for the damages suffered due to their dog biting a person not.  However, what about a claim of negligence?  Well if the landlord did not even know a dog was on the property then theyare probably not on the hook (but see nuisance below).  Even if the landlord knew the tenant had the dog but the dog had no history of viciousness and was not a known dangerous breed, then the landlord is most likely not on the hook.  However if the landlord knew the dog was on the property and knew that the dog had a history viciousness, their liability is now more probable.  Basically, this is premises liability which may hold the landowner responsible for hazards on the property.  Additionally, the landlord may be liable under a claim of "nuisance".  There is case law in CA that suggests that a landowner may be liable for a nuisance even if the landowner was not aware of the nuisance. 

The fact is that no matter what the situation, even if a landlord is ultimately found not to be liable for a tenant's dog attack, that does not mean a landlord will not be sued and have to defend thenself in a lawsuit.  And this is so, even if a tenant has insurance; a landlord can be sued just because they may have "deep pockets".  

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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