Homeowner associations (HOAs) also called property owner associations (POAs) may be liable when a dog bites a person in a common area owned by the association. A homeowner association may be found responsible for the attack under several different scenarios. The board of directors of the associations have a fiduciary duty to the members to maintain the property. These duties include keeping the property safe and warning of known dangers.
If a dog owned by a homeowner escapes from an enclosure because the association failed to repair or maintain a fence or other fixture that was the responsibility of the association, the association may be found liable for the damages caused by the dog. An association may also be found responsible for an attack from a loose dog if the association has notice that there are loose dogs roaming the common areas and takes no action to stop the situation.
A prudent association would enact covenants or restrictions addressing dangerous dog. An association should pass restrictions that require an owner to remove a dangerous dog from the premises or at minimum keep the dog inside or enclosed in a secure enclosure. The dog should not be allowed to roam freely and must always be on a leash six feet or shorter when in the common areas. A dangerous dog would be clearly defined in the covenants or restrictions. For example, a dangerous dog could be defined as a specific breed, a dog that has bit a person in the past and/or a dog that has bit another domesticated animal in the past. The association should also require an owner of a dangerous dog or breed to have homeowner’s insurance that covers liability for a dog attack, so there is a source of restitution if a resident is injured.
Sadly, many HOAs do not have any restrictions regarding dogs other than a limit of the total number of pets a homeowner may keep on the premises. Given the number of people who are injured in Texas by dog attacks each year, associations should enact more covenants to protect members.
O’Hara Law Firm has experience representing victims of dog attacks whose injuries could have been prevented by homeowner associations that failed to take reasonable measures to protect members.