By Mark Zinman | Zona Law
Question: What is the possible liability for landlords in the event that a tenant has an emotional support animal (ESA) and the ESA bites/attacks someone? How can liability be limited or eliminated?
Answer: Premises liability cases are always fact-specific determinations, so there is no clear bright-line rule. Generally, landlords are not liable for the acts of a resident’s animal, unless they knew or had reason to know that the animal was vicious and failed to take action. Under fair housing laws, if a person has a disability and a disability-related need for the animal, you must allow it. Therefore, the default would be that you would not be liable if the animal randomly bites someone. However, after that happens, you would need to take action, such as removing the dog, to prevent future incidents for which you could be liable. A lot of people also have provisions in their lease that animal owners agree to indemnify and hold the landlord/owner harmless from claims relating to the dog.