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I have a problem with my landlord in Florida. Who is responsible if my dogs bite someone?

Fort Lauderdale, FL |

The master bedroom for my home has been closed off by the landlord and he is attempting to rent it out as an apartment. It does not have any cooking facilities and is basically a room with a bathroom. I have asked numerous times to just let us reconvert it into a bedroom and solve the whole problem. We are even willing to pay more. Now the problem. The entrance for this "apartment" is inside my back fence. I have dogs that can and will bite strangers inside of "their" yard. My landlord knew this before we moved in. My yard is posted on all 4 sides and so are the windows in my home with beware of dogs signage. My landlord has told me to remove the signs and also that I would be responsible if someone got bitten. I have also been told that I can not put up any type of fencing. Help!

Attorney Answers 4


  1. You really need to consult with a landlord/tenant attorney in your area. Closing off a master bedroom and renting it out as an additional apartment may violate your local zoning ordinances. And, if your lease is for the entire house, then it seems to me that the landlord cannot simply take back some of the space you are renting in order to rent it out for someone else.

    Generally, if your dog bites someone you may be liable depending on the circumstances. In some states, and recently in Maryland there's been a debate on whether landlords should be 'strictly liable' for injuries caused by a dog such as a pit bull. Thus you want to be careful, as I don't know if Florida has similar type laws.

    DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.


  2. Contact a landlord-tenant attorney immediately to address your rights under the lease. The attorney will probably have to review the lease. Florida has strict liability for dog bites. Posting Bad Dog signs helps and the landlord will probably have some liability but you will probably get sued along with the landlord in any dog bite claim.

    I provide a free 15 minute telephone consult for security deposit claims and eviction defense. No attorney-client relationship is created by answering questions in this public forum. If you wish to create an attorney-client relationship, you must contact me directly and sign a representation agreement. Answers are provided based on general ideas and an answer specific to your situation would require a review of all documents.


  3. "I have dogs that can and will bite strangers inside of "their" yard. My landlord knew this before we moved in."

    If the bite occurs on the property, both you AND your landlord can be liable. You can limit your liability by posting certain signs in accord with the law and taking certain precautions. However, this will not completely inssulate you. In Florida, if your dog bites, you are almost always liable!

    Time to move elswhere...


  4. I would strongly recommend speaking with a landlord/tenant attorney. Although both you and the landlord will most likely be sued if your dog should bite, there are other problems that may need to be addressed. For example, if you we're previously renting the entire space, the landlord may not be able to quarantine a section of the house without repercussion with regard to improper partial evictions or even possibly constructive eviction.

    In short, you need to take all your documents to an attorney before something happens and access your rights.

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