Research & Policy Think Tank

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A guide for landlords

Renting to Dog Owners

As a landlord or part of a property management company, we know you might be concerned about liability when it comes to renters with dogs. 

But a lot of the things you think you know about dogs, their behavior, their owners, and your liability might be based in misinformation. Keep reading to find out what your risks really are.

Breed does not predict behavior

Did you know?

Restricting dogs based on their looks or their known or suspected breed is not an effective way to mitigate risk. Scientific research shows that no breed of dog is inherently more dangerous than any other. According to the majority of animal welfare and leading scientific organizations, landlords are better off focusing on a dog’s known behavior. It’s a good idea to meet dogs and their owners prior to renting to determine if the dog is well-behaved and if the owner is responsible. 

state by state

Landlord liability laws

The majority of states have very clear laws that hold dog owners liable in those instances, not landlords.


Click on your state to view its dog bite laws. You’ll also find examples of how those laws have protected landlords from liability exposure.

Map Colors:  

The red states have clear and strict dog bite liability statutes that place the responsibility solely on the dog owner after the first reported incident.

The blue states apply the “one bite rule” to dog bite incidents. The “one bite rule” means that if this is the first time a dog has bitten someone, the dog owner, and also you as the landlord, would not be held liable for any resulting injuries. For any subsequent bites, anyone who knew about the dog’s bite history could be considered liable.

The purple states have a mix of these two ordinances. They have some degree of strict liability laws for a dog’s first bite incident, but those laws do not apply to all dog bite related damages. The “one bite rule” is applied to some damages. For instance, after the first bite incident, a dog owner is liable for paying medical bills, but would not be liable for paying punitive damages unless the plaintiff can prove that the owner knew the dog had a history of dangerous behavior.

Most states require landlords to “comply with requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety; make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition: Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.”

View cases in your state where people attempted to collect damages from landlords for injuries caused by tenants’ dogs.

0 %
of rentals welcome all pets
0 Million
Americans Own Dogs
0 %
of pet owning renters struggle to find housing

Dog ownership has increased by 31% since 2017, with 63.4 million or 53% of Americans having at least one dog in 2020. Dogs have become an integral part of the modern family.

These modern families are increasingly renters and not buyers. Since 2008, the homeownership rate has dropped to 63.7%. This number is only going to increase over the next few years.
Landlords have the opportunity to create inclusive and safe housing for their community by offering pet policies that focus on an animal’s behavior and not its breed.

Frequently asked questions

Want to reduce risk? Here are some things to ask for prior to renting: 

Require a family meet & greet: Nothing will tell you more about a dog than meeting him. This gives you a chance to look for smart, polite, and quiet family dogs regardless of their breed or size.

  • Resume: Ask for a dog resume to give you a snapshot of the dog’s behavior.
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  • References  Ask for references from people who can attest to the dog’s good behavior. Great references include: dog trainer, veterinarian/technicians, past landlord, neighbors, groomer, daycare provider/walker, family members, and friends.
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  • Veterinary records and proof of registration Veterinary records show that a person is a responsible dog owner.  Consistently up-to-date shots, spay/neuter, preventative health, and city license show investment and commitment to their dog and can give you a general idea of their responsibility level.

These tips are courtesy of My Pit Bull Is Family 

There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding “pit bull” dogs. It makes sense that you would believe some of them, even if you love dogs labeled “pit bull.” But, they dogs are just like any other dog. And we know from scientific research that looks don’t dictate behavior and that all dogs are individuals. “Pit bull” dogs don’t bite differently, the don’t “attack” without warning, and they are not more likely to cause injury to humans or other dogs. Read more.

Ideally, we recommend finding a different insurance provider. You can find a list of ones without breed restrictions here. But, we understand that it’s not always that easy. Some landlords require their renters to carry a seperate insurance policy for their dog, but keep in mind that may limit your tenant pool.

Remember, Landlords are not held responsible for tenants’ dogs unless there is provable negligence on your part. 

If you aren’t able to switch to an insurance company that does not have breed bans, reach out to your insurance commissioner and let them know how these policies affect your business.  

According to a 2003 study, the most common concern among landlords who did not allow pets was the potential for property damage.

The same study suggests that many of these concerns are unfounded.  Analysts found no statistical differences in the amount of damage caused by tenants with pets versus those without pets. 

By contrast, tenants with children caused significantly more property damage than those without children. Although 14.8% of landlords who allowed pets did report an increase in the amount of time they spent on pet related issues, such as tenant conflicts or common area maintenance, they spent under one hour per year addressing these problems – less than they spent on child-related and other issues. The financial and time costs were relatively unsubstantial compared to other landlord concerns. 

The fact that many landlord concerns about pets are baseless suggests the financial and emotional strain these bans place on renters is unjustified.

Cant find your Question?

We can help you find an answer. 

Insurance policies getting in your way?

Tell your insurance commissioner

Do you want to rent to all dog owners but your insurance company prohibits you from accepting some breeds? Every state has an insurance commissioner whose job is to protect you as a consumer. Help end the use of bassless breed restrictions in the housing insurance industry by letting your insurance commissioner know how these restrictions affect your business. 

* You can also find insurers that don’t have breed bans here.