Going to the Dogs: Pitbulls, Dog Bites, and Landlord Liability


“What? Liability? For me? Seriously?”

As a landlord or rental property owner, you need to be aware of possible areas where you are exposed to liability — and dogs are a big red flag.

But first things first. Allowing your renters to own dogs can be good. Here’s why: studies have found that renters who own pets are willing to pay more in rent, and they tend to rent for longer periods of time. In addition, vacancy rates are lower for rental units that are pet friendly.

However, dogs do come with a set of issues — from vicious dogs, to persistent barking, to multiple dogs, Denver landlords need to cover their bases. Here are some basic facts you need to know:

No Pitbulls in Denver

If you do allow dogs, you probably already know that pitbulls are not allowed in Denver. It’s a pretty clear rule, so you need to make sure your tenants are in compliance and that your lease agreement reflects this language. That means no American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or any dog displaying physical traits of those breeds. The pitbull ordinance is pretty long, and there are some exceptions, so make sure you look it over.

No More Than Three Dogs

Denver’s zoning code allows for no more than three dogs and five cats; and no more than a total of five of both combined (Denver Zoning Code, Section 11.8.5). Pet-friendly landlords in Denver need to know that this is a maximum, and you can set any limit on cats or dogs which is less than that number.

Denver’s Leash Law

Denver also has a leash law, and dog owners cannot let their dogs run “at large.” Basically this means they have to be on a leash, or confined within an area so as not to have access to the public right-of-way. If you do allow dogs, make sure you reiterate that dogs must be kept on a leash at all times when not in the rental unit. If you have a fenced off-leash dog area, make sure you screen out aggressive dogs, which you should be doing anyway.

What If a Tenant’s Dog Bites Someone?

Under Colorado law, a landlord can be liable when a tenant’s dog bites someone if the landlord was aware, before entering into the lease agreement, that the dog was dangerous. However, this doesn’t mean that pre-lease you should try to be ignorant about whether or not a tenant’s dog is aggressive. If you want your other tenants to enjoy and use the premises (and you should, it’s your duty), then you need to screen out aggressive animals. And include a provision in your pet agreement that if you are ever notified that the tenant’s animal is aggressive, you reserve the right to require them to remove the dog from the premises.

If you’re a landlord in Denver, do you have any experiences or advice about dogs and tenants worth sharing? Let us know!

Denver Property Management

Welcome to Denver Property Management! And if you own rental property in Denver, congratulations. With a strong rental market and median rents increasing a whopping 10% over a year ago, it’s definitely a rental owners market.

Denver Skyline

Are Rents So High in Denver That Your Tenants Will Decide to Buy Instead?

Probably not. According to the 2016 Rental Affordability Analysis from RealtyTrac, for the time being it makes more sense to rent than to buy in Denver County. The analysis used federal data on average monthly wages, average monthly rent, and average mortgage payments prices on a median-priced home.

Why Do Renters Stay in Denver?

The answer is easy. Denver is a great place to live. From nearby four-season recreation, to fantastic restaurants, and a variety of cultural activities and events, Denver meets the lifestyle wants and needs of recreation enthusiasts and city slickers alike.

In addition, Denver’s healthy economy means high quality jobs at major employers such as Big O Tires, CH2M Hill, Molson Coors Brewing Company, Lockheed Martin, Kroger, and United Airlines.

Your Rental Property Could Be Your Best Investment.

Your rental property is worth protecting. That means putting in some effort. You need great tenants who will treat your rental with respect, pay their rent on time, and notify you when something needs repairing. And you need to make sure the property is managed well. If you have the time, that might mean that you decide to manage your rental property yourself. Or, perhaps it means you find a reputable property management company to run the property for you.

Should You Self-Manage Your Rental?

Obviously the decision about self-management versus hiring a property manager is highly dependent on your individual situation. To help you figure it out, here are some characteristics of good self-managers:

  • Handy and able to make repairs, conduct routine maintenance tasks.
  • Organized with an ability to establish and maintain filing system, do bookkeeping.
  • Familiar with federal, state, and local landlord tenant laws.
  • Comfortable dealing with difficult situations, such as turning down prospective renters or evicting tenants.
  • Have the time to put into another property.

If you work full-time, have family obligations, enjoy lengthy vacations, or have other demands on your time, consider hiring a property manager. Denver has some excellent property management companies who can help you–for a fee of course.

Stay tuned for more information on self-managing your rental or how a property manager can help you find tenants, maintain your property, and make sure you’re compliant with landlord tenant laws in Colorado.