HOA Liability for Dog Bites    

Most dogs are friendly and lovable pets. Sometimes, though, they bite and seriously injure someone. In fact, more than 4.5 million people are bit by dogs each year in the United States and almost 20% of them need medical care from the bite[1]. What happens if a dog bites someone in a common area of your HOA? Is the HOA at-fault for this? Depending on the specifics of the situation, the dog bite victim may be able to hold the HOA liable for damages if they can prove in court that the HOA was negligent and this negligence enabled the dog to bite them. What can your HOA board do to protect the association against these types of lawsuits?

The first step to protect your HOA is to enact clear and concise rules regarding pets in the HOA. Rules might include:

  • Acceptable and unacceptable breeds of dogs
  • Size restrictions on dogs
  • Restrictions on dogs in the common areas
  • Requirements about dogs being on-leash in common areas
  • Banning aggressive dogs
  • Requiring fencing that is a certain height around backyards of homes that have dogs

Just as important as having rules about dogs is enforcing those rules. If your HOA requires that dogs be on leashes in all common areas, but regularly looks aside when residents break this rule, you are opening your HOA to a possible negligence claim. If your board learns that a resident is breaking any of the rules about pets, whether related to leashes, fencing, acceptable breeds of dogs, etc., your community manager should take action right away so the resident stops this behavior. Additionally, having documentation showing that the HOA takes action when these rules are broken can help the HOA in court, if the dog bite victim decides to sue.

It can also be helpful to remind residents about the pet rules to show that the HOA leadership is serious about them. Some approaches could include: signs in the common areas, a callout in the association newsletter and website, or periodic reminders on the HOA’s social media channels.

Even if you take all the right steps, you may still find your HOA facing a lawsuit. To prepare in case this situation occurs, contact your HOA’s liability insurance to ensure that the association has coverage to protect itself from dog bite lawsuits.

CCM’s property managers are well-versed in developing and enforcing pet policies for HOAs throughout South Florida. We have the experience and the know-how to help minimize your risk of facing the financial repercussions of a dog bite lawsuit. Call us to learn about the full range of community management services that we offer.

Consolidated Community Management (CCM) is a full-service property management company specializing in condominium and homeowner association management in Broward and southern Palm Beach Counties.  We are committed to working together with community Boards of Directors to develop management plans tailored to the unique requirements of each community and their residents.

CCM provides a quality of service that is unique to our industry and consistently delivers a distinct competitive advantage.  Our concentrated, extensive local presence and knowledge of community associations results in lasting partnerships and superior service.  We have built our industry reputation on employing the best in the business and assigning only a limited number of properties to each Property Manager Team.

Our team at Consolidated Community Management provides expert property management services at competitive prices.  Contact us today by calling (954) 718-9903 or clicking on ccmfla.com.

[1] American Veterinary Medicine Association. Dog bite prevention | American Veterinary Medical Association (avma.org). Accessed February 2, 2024.

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