A prospective tenant wants to lease a property that I manage. The prospect owns a pit bull. May I refuse to lease to the tenant, who is otherwise qualified? If I do lease the property to him, what type of precautions should I take?

A landlord may refuse to lease properties to persons who own animals or who own certain types of animals (for example, pit bulls). The landlord must be careful to consistently enforce such a policy. The issue of a dangerous pet or animal on a property can impose liability issues both for the tenant and the landlord. There have been a few reported cases in which dogs, which allegedly had viscous propensities, bit neighbors, including children. The liability in such cases typically turns on the issue of control. Which party—landlord, tenant, or both—exercised control over the property and pet? Clearly, the tenant may be liable, as he exercises control over the pet and the property. Many times, however, landlords retain certain rights to enter the property and exercise some degree of control, although minimal. Briefly, the liability issue for the landlord may depend on what the landlord knew related to the pet's history and propensities, any requirements the landlord imposed on the tenant related to the pet, and what the landlord knew of the tenant's care of the pet. In situations where the landlord is contemplating leasing to a tenant who has a dangerous pet, the landlord is well-advised to seek the advice of counsel to draft a specific addendum to the lease to address issues such as containment requirements, signage, locks, and insurance.