Dog Bite Ruling a Game-Changer for Landlords

Landlords in Kentucky are  studying the implications of a decision just handed down by the state’s highest court which sets the stage for increased landlord liability for tenants’ pets.

According to legal expert David Kramer, who provides a synopsis of the newly-published opinion, the high court has determined that landlords can be considered “statutory owners” of an animal if the landlord has agreed to allow the pet in the rental property.

The case had been tried earlier in a lower court, which determined that the landlord could not be liable for injuries to a child who was attacked across the street from a rental property by a tenant’s dog. 

The court  indicated that a landlord could be liable for injuries to a third party when a tenant’s dog bites someone “on or about” the property, according to Kramer.

The court also addressed the application of the “one free bite” rule, that a landlord is not liable unless the animal’s vicious propensities are known. But the court found that the statute at the heart of the case had modified the common law and made it “simpler” for victims to establish liability.

Some landlords have commented that the decision may lead them to enforce an absolute ban on dogs.

Unless and until the statutes are changed or interpreted differently by the Kentucky Supreme Court, Kramer says landlords should consider revising their leases, reviewing their insurance coverage, and adjusting their property management practices to minimize liability for tenants’ dogs.

With AAOA, landlords have resources at their fingertips. Check out our Landlord Forms page.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your rental housing investment, including rental forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at