Should Landlords Permit Dogs in Their Rental Property?

Landlords, especially corporate landlords, are increasingly becoming “pet friendly”, because the number of tenants who have dogs as pets and service animals has increased in recent years. Thus, to attract a larger pool of potential tenants to their properties, landlords not only advertise as “pet friendly”, but also make the conditions of permitting dogs much easier. But there are risks to permitting dogs on the property, and landlords need to be aware of those risks as well as have proper protections and procedures to help reduce and mitigate those risks.

Landlords should be aware that if a tenant’s dog bites a person who is in a public area (e.g. the adjoining street to the rental house) or on the premises lawfully, the tenant faces strict liability, regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s viciousness and whether the dog has a history of biting people or the owner. F.S. 767.04 states,

“The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident…”

But liability doesn’t stop with the owner of the dog. The landlord also faces liability, and of course, a person who is injured, especially seriously, will seek compensation from any potentially liable party, including the landlord. So, what should the landlord do to help mitigate or reduce its liability risks? Here are a number of helpful tips.

Liability Insurance – Tenant and Landlord

Landlords need to purchase a Dwelling Policy (DP) for their rental property, and that policy needs to provide for coverage in case of a dog bite or attack situation. Not all DP’s provide coverage for dog bites, and some DP’s even exclude dogs (of certain breeds) from being on the premises. Make sure your DP covers dog bites, and take note of any breed restrictions in the policy, as it will and should affect how a landlord handles a tenant’s request for a pet.

Additionally, Landlords should require tenants to obtain a liability policy that names the landlord as an insured on the policy, and the policy needs to cover damages caused by the tenant, including dog bites. The tenant’s obligation to purchase liability insurance should be in the lease agreement, and the tenant should be required to provide proof of coverage to the landlord within a short period of time after the tenant moves into the premises.
Of course, the landlord should enforce the tenant’s obligation, because if the landlord doesn’t, the landlord may not get the protection this provision would provide—essentially constituting a waiver of that provision.

Adequate Fencing

For non-multi-family homes, the rental property should have adequate fencing that protects passers-by from being attacked by the dog. The fencing should restrict the dog to the back yard so that persons who need to approach the entrance of the home do not have to enter the area where the dog is kept or has access. The fencing needs to be sturdy and tall enough to secure the perimeter and have adequate gate locks to prevent the dog’s escape from the fenced area.

For multi-family units, the landlord should require tenants to always have their dog on a leash and in the control of a responsible adult when the dog is outside of the rental unit.

Pet Screening

Landlords should screen any pet that the tenant desires to bring into the premises. There are third-party service providers that provide pet screening service, but if the landlord does not use such a service, the landlord must use due diligence to screen the pet. And even if the landlord uses a third-party service provider, the landlord should review the tenant’s pet application to make sure the dog fits its policies regarding admission of pets on the property.

Screening should consider the dog’s breed, age, size, training and vaccination history and records, and other relevant factors to assess the dog’s risk. The landlord should also look to its Dwelling Policy to make sure the insurance policy does not restrict certain breeds, and for breeds that are restricted, do not permit those breeds to be on the property.

Lease Agreement and Pet Addendum

Landlords should have lease addendum provisions that impose terms and conditions on the tenant regarding the admission of dogs (and pets in general). The lease agreement, as well as rental application terms and conditions, should provide that the tenant is not permitted to have a pet on the property without first submitting an application and having the landlord’s expressed, written prior approval.

Lease terms should include requiring the tenant to agree to terms that govern the tenant’s obligations relating to the dog—and there are a number of important terms that the landlord should impose on a tenant who has a pet. If you don’t have a pet addendum drafted by a landlord-tenant attorney, you need to contact your landlord-tenant attorney to provide you not only with a good pet addendum, but also a solid lease to help your rental business.

Enforce Lease Agreement

If the tenant violates a provision regarding the dog, the landlord should enforce those provisions timely. This includes situations where the tenant has an unauthorized pet, the tenant has violated terms in the lease and addendum governing the pet, and the pet is acting in a way that violates the tenant’s obligations.

That the landlord should timely enforce the tenant’s obligations in this regard is especially true when the violations are more serious in nature, such as the dog being outside of the fenced area without a leash, showing aggressive behavior, and causing damage to the premises. If the Landlord “sits on its rights”, the landlord may find that he waived the ability to enforce the violation.


Landlords face significant liability in the rental business, but having dogs on the premises adds that notable liability given the dog’s potential for causing personal injury and property damage. While landlords are not able to avoid being the target of a liability claim, they can help reduce and mitigate their risks of liability by taking proper steps to screen pets, imposing rules and restrictions regarding the pet, having sufficient insurance to cover incidents, and enforcing lease terms promptly.

Property Management Law Solutions, LLC is a Florida law firm that specializes in landlord-tenant law and is a landlord-only law firm. We provide statewide services including evictions, consultation plans, education and training, membership plans, lease agreement plans and more. If you are a landlord or property manager, contact us today or subscribe to one of our online membership plans.