Compensation for most dog-bite claims comes from the owner or keeper’s homeowner’s insurance policy. If the injuries from the bite are serious, most people won’t have the money to pay the victim fair compensation. They need to rely on their insurance to cover the victim’s claims.
This area becomes somewhat muddled when the owner or keeper of a dog is a renter, rather than the owner of property. If that person has rental insurance, the victim may be compensated from that policy. If the dog’s owner doesn’t have renter’s insurance, the dog-bite victim may try to seek compensation from the landlord. Though there are exceptions, this generally results in a dead end.
In Ohio, landlords generally are not responsible for the actions of a tenant’s dog. First of all, to make a landlord liable, it would have to be shown that the landlord harbored the dog. Almost all of the caselaw that we’ve read says that landlords are not harborers of a dog if the tenant has exclusive possession and control of the property. In most situations, tenants are deemed to have possession and control of the rental property during the lease period.
This equation changes slightly where rental property has a common area such as a shared yard or shared hallway. If the bite happens in a common area, a landlord might be liable as the harborer of the dog.
Some judges have found, however, that if a landlord knew a tenant’s dog was vicious and still allowed the dog to remain at the property, the landlord can be held liable for any injuries caused by a dog bite.