Attacks that occur upon the landlord’s premises
A landlord has a duty to protect its tenants in connection with a vicious dog of which the landlord has knowledge. In White v. Whitworth, 509 So. 2d 378, 380 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987), the court stated, “A landlord who recognizes and assumes the duty to protect co-tenants from dangerous propensities of a tenant’s pet is required to undertake reasonable precautions to protect co-tenants from reasonably foreseeable injury occasioned thereby.” See also Vasquez v. Lopez, 509 So. 2d 1241 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987) (holding that landlord may be liable for tenant’s dog if landlord knows dog is vicious and has sufficient control of premises to protect plaintiff).
Where the lease agreement includes rules which specifically prohibit certain breeds of dogs, the landlord can be held liable for hi’s failure to enforce those rules despite knowledge that prohibited dogs reside upon the premises. For example, in Ramirez v. M.L. Management Co., Inc., 920 So.2d 36 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005), the landlord was aware that a tenant’s pit bulls had threatened other tenants, but the landlord did not evict the owner of the pit bulls. When they attacked a child who was on adjacent property, the landlord was held liable.
However, there are exceptions to liability. There might not be liability where the victim is a trespasser or exceeded her invitation to be on the premises. For example, in Anderson v. Walthal, 468 So. 2d 291 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985), a woman coming to a home for a business purpose went around to the back of the home where a dog bit her. The landlord claimed that the woman had exceeded her “invitation” by wandering into an area behind the home where the dog was located. The court held that a jury question existed as to whether the woman had exceeded the scope of her business invitation.
Attacks that occur off the landlord’s premises
In Tran v. Bancroft, 648 So. 2d 314 (Fla. 4th DCA 1995), it was held that a landlord has no duty to third parties for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog where those injuries occur off the leased premises. In Tran, a landlord leased a single family home to a tenant who owned a dog known to the landlord to be vicious and over which the landlord could have exercised control. The dog jumped over the fence and bit a child in the neighboring yard. It was held that the victim had no remedy because the landlord had no duty to protect against harm occurring off the landlord’s premises.
However, a landlord can be held liable for a dog attack that occurs off the premises under certain circumstances. In Ramirez v. M.L. Management Co., Inc., 920 So.2d 36 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005), a landlord was held liable for a dog attack which occurred off the premises but in an adjacent park that the landlord had advertised as an amenity of the premises. The court reasoned that “there was evidence from which a jury could conclude that the landlord “extended its operation” to the park, by advertising it as an amenity next to the complex and inviting its tenants to take advantage of it as part of the amenities.”