Whether you’re a landlord, a tenant, or a person who has been bit by a dog in Kentucky, you might be wondering who’s responsible for it. Who gets sued? Who do you sue? What if the landlord didn’t know that there was a dangerous dog on the premises? Does the fact that the landlord doesn’t own the dog mean that you can’t sue them?
It will soon.
Today, thanks to a 2012 Kentucky Supreme Court decision, the landlord is considered to be at least partially responsible for injuries sustained due to their tenant’s pets. Benningfield v. Zinsmeister, 367 S.W.3d 561 (Ky. 2012) held that the landlord can be held to be the “owner” of the tenant’s animal if it causes injury to a third-party. In order for this to happen, the landlord needs to allow or continue to allow the animal to remain on the property. In the case at hand, the tenant had been asked to get rid of the dog but the landlord took no action to follow through.
It’s clear that this is a bad decision, and bad law. Not all tenants immediately comply with requests from their landlord. Some tenants willfully disregard the landlord’s request. There is an overlap between the sort of people who would willfully disregard instructions from their landlord and the sort of people who would fail to take the time and energy to properly train their dog.
It only took five years, but the Kentucky Senate has passed a law to right this wrong.
A bill to fix this state Supreme Court decision has passed both chambers of the state legislature and is now awaiting signature by the governor. The bill, sponsored by Representative Stan Lee (R-Lexington), is surprisingly short and to the point. HB 112 (2017) clarifies the definition of “owner” in the context of an animal, and makes it possible to limit liability to the tenant who actually owns or keeps the animal.
Limiting liability to the tenant, the actual owner of the animal, is especially important in cases of absentee landlords. While good landlords will have a property management company, that doesn’t necessarily take the place of a local landlord who can keep an eye on the goings-on at the property. A landlord who rents through a property management company has a disadvantage when it comes to tenants’ animals.
They don’t meet tenants, they don’t see the day-to-day happenings, and they may not even be aware that a tenant has an animal on the property. This is especially true when the lease prohibits the presence of a dog or requires affirmative consent from the landlord for the dog to be on the premises.
How Can Tenants And Landlords Protect Themselves Under The New Kentucky Dog Bite Law?
Landlords can mitigate their risks in two main ways. The first is by crafting leases carefully to ensure that the types, kinds, breeds, and quantities of animals kept by tenants are laid out in the lease and verifiable. If you have easy access to the property, you should take the time to check up on this after they’re moved in, and every so often thereafter. Most tenants won’t sneak in an animal, much less a dangerous or poorly trained dog, but it’s ultimately your responsibility to know.
The second thing you can do as a landlord is to protect yourself with Kentucky landlord insurance. This policy protects the dwelling from risks such as fire, and it also offers liability coverage. If you’re sued over something a tenant’s animal does, the policy will defend you. That defense can include an effort to remove you from the lawsuit per the recently passed change in Kentucky dog bite law.
How can tenants protect themselves against a lawsuit over their dog? First and foremost, make sure that the dog you acquire is appropriate for your lifestyle. If you can’t give a large dog the attention and exercise they deserve, you should reconsider getting a large dog. Training the dog properly is also important. Many dog bite claims could have been avoided had the dog been properly trained and cared for.
When buying Kentucky Renters Insurance, you need to ask two questions. First, you should ask if animal liability is covered. There are a few companies which exclude it, and you need to be aware of this if you hope to have a defense against the claim. Second, you should ask if your particular breed of dog is acceptable to the company.
Lying about the presence or breed of animals on the premises might get the policy issued, but it would be rescinded as soon as there was a loss involving that animal or as soon as the company performed an exterior inspection and noted the presence of the animal. Honesty is crucial, because you want your policy to defend you against a dog bite claim. If the person suing was taunting or intentionally angering the dog, you may not be responsible for the bite but you still need your renters insurance to pay for a defense against the claim in order to be able to raise that defense.
Fortunately, both Kentucky landlord insurance and Kentucky renters insurance are affordable and easy to get. Effective Coverage insurance experts can help you to efficiently quantify and protect against your risk, because insurance is our world and we want to get you quickly back to yours. It just takes one phone call to get covered, the paperwork is all online, and we can even provide instant proof of coverage for your landlord or mortgage company. Just call (800)892-4308 or click to get covered - whether you need Kentucky renters insurance quotes online or coverage anywhere else!
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