Whitesburg KY

Court rules landlords could be liable if tenants’ dogs bite

An opinion by the Kentucky Supreme Court says landlords can be liable if their tenants’ dogs bite people.

The Kentucky Enquirer reported the opinion won’t help a Newport family after a child wearing a lion costume was mauled by a boxer in July 2009. The court ruled the dog was too far from the rental property for the landlord to be liable in that case. The dog’s owner was found liable.

Landlord advocates say the opinion may mean higher insurance premiums and stricter rules regarding pets.

“We are definitely concerned and are looking into the opinion,” said Charles Tassell, director of government affairs for the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association. “We have referred the opinion to our legal counsel to examine its nuances and determine what effect it will have on future litigation.”

Greater Cincinnat i Northern Kentucky Apartment Association attorney Jeffrey Greenberger called the opinion “scary” and said he knows of no other case where the landlord is treated as though he owns the tenant’s pet.

Stan Billingsly of Carrollton is a retired judge who owns rental property. He said he is re-evaluating his policy of renting to dog owners.

“Unless you are careful to make sure you are insured, I think this is a tough ruling for landlords,” he said.

In an analysis of the opinion on legal research website LawReader.com, lawyer David Kramer of Crestview Hills says landlords should take action.

“Unless and until the statutes are changed or interpreted differently by the Kentucky Supreme Court,” Kramer wrote, “landlords should consider revising their leases, reviewing their insurance coverage and/or adjust their property management practices to protect against or avoid liability for tenants’ dogs.”

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