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Landlord Liability for Personal Injuries Caused by a Tenant’s Vicious or Dangerous Dog


In most circumstances, a landlord will not be held civilly liable for personal injuries caused to a third-party by the landlord’s tenant. There are exceptions to this rule, however. One of the most important exceptions for North Carolinians involves attacks on third-parties by a tenant’s dog. In limited circumstances, the North Carolina Courts have held that the landlord can be required to pay fair compensation to an innocent third-party injured by the tenant’s vicious or dangerous dog. The purpose of the exception is to hold the landlord responsible when he or she could have done something about a dog that was a danger to the public and he or she instead chose to do nothing.

The seminal case detailing the boundaries of “landlord liability” is Holcomb v. Colonial Associates, LLC, 358 N.C. 501, 597 S.E.2d 710 (2004). There, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the landlord was responsible for the personal injuries caused by the tenant’s Rottweiler, because the landlord (a) knew that the dog was vicious or dangerous, (b) had the contractual right to remove any vicious or dangerous dog, and (c) failed to exercise its right to remove the dog. The specific lease term provided that the tenant had to “remove any pet . . . within forty-eight hours of written notification from the landlord that the pet, in the landlord’s sole judgment, create[d] a nuisance or disturbance or [was], in the landlord’s opinion, undesirable.” Many leases contain very similar language permitting landlords to exercise control over dangerous dogs.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of the attack of a Pit Bull, Rottweiler, or other vicious dog, the Raleigh dog bite attorneys of Maginnis Law may be able to assist with a claim both against the owner or keeper of the dog, and in the above limited circumstances, the landlord. We understand that many times tenants simply do not carry insurance and the only available insurance coverage is provided to the landlord. We can help guide you through the legal complexities of “landlord liability” claims. To set up a free consultation, call our Raleigh, North Carolina office at 919.480.8526. You may also visit our contact page to submit the details of your case.

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