Screening Tenants with Pets in Miami
Property managers and owners are sometimes reluctant to rent to someone with a pet, fearing if the dog injures someone on their property, they may be held liable. A landlord can outline in their rental agreement whether they accept pets. If the rental agreement prohibits pets, the landlord can deny any applicant or tenant that has a pet. This law does not pertain to disabled people who require an animal assistant.
However, not allowing pets or dogs may limit your prospects. According to a recent survey by the American Pets Products Association, well over 56 million American households own a dog. According to the U.S. Humane Society, pet ownership has tripled since the 1970’s. Americans love their dogs which are an integral part of our communities.
Miami Pet Ordinance
Some dog breeds are illegal to own. According to Miami Dade County Ordinance Chapter 5, Sec. 5—17, it is illegal in Miami-Dade County to own or keep American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or any other dog that substantially conforms to any of these breeds’ characteristics. Clearly, property owners, managers and homeowner associations should be aware of this ordinance which can be found on the website of Miami Dade County Animal Services.
Dog Bites and Liability
It is rare for a landlord to be held liable for a tenant’s dog that causes injuries. Court cases have found if a tenant’s usually friendly dog bites someone, the landlord cannot be held responsible. Generally, courts have found the landlord to be responsible if they knowingly allowed a dangerous dog to reside on the premises while they could have had the dog removed or if the landlord was directly caring for a tenant’s dog. These factors may also pertain to homeowner associations. In most cases, the dog owner is strictly liable for the dog and any injuries it causes. Juries usually find the dog owner responsible and not the landlord.
Screening tenants with pets in Miami begins at the initial point of contact and that is when landlords should inform their applicants about their animal policies. If instituting pet restrictions on their properties, landlords should include adequate enforceable clauses in their documents regarding the restrictions and the penalties for violating them. Landlords should strictly enforce their animal policies, so as to reduce the risk of injury and as a means of defense in case of a court action.
As with all other matters such as facility management and security, landlords should monitor their properties regularly and be aware of the people and animals residing in their premises. Landlords, property managers and homeowners associations have the right to institute and enforce strict pet guidelines or they may opt to maintain best practices and regularly monitor their properties.