It now appears that victim may have an easier avenue of recovery against a non owner who is caring for the dog at the time of the bite. Even though a person is not the owner of a vicious dog, he may be liable to others by knowingly keeping a dog on his property after knowledge of its viciousness. Landlords may also be liable for a dog bite depending on their knowledge of the dog and their control of the rental property in which the dog resides. Usually, a landlord who is not actually living on the premises is not responsible for attacks by animals kept by tenants at a leased property where the tenant has exclusive control over the premises. This means that if the landlord does not live in the same apartment building with the tenant, the landlord would probably not be liable unless some exception were involved. For example, if the landlord had allowed a lease to the tenant which included having a dog and the landlord was aware of the dog’s vicious nature. If the landlord knows of the presence of the dangerous animal and has the right to control over moving the animal from the premises, he may be liable.
One of the biggest problems with a dog bite which occurs in a rental property is that the rental property tenant often does not have homeowner’s insurance of any type to cover such a claim. If the tenant lives in the apartment and owns no assets, there usually is no point in filing a lawsuit since you “can’t get blood out of a stone.” On occasion, we have pursued such a lawsuit, but it is our feeling that if you cannot collect compensation because there is no insurance, there is little reason to pursue the claim. However, we like to more fully investigate the insurance which could apply. Sometimes the dog owner will say there is no insurance when this is simply untrue.