Jo Ann Woodsum
The Law Offices of
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Words of Wisdom from the Leasing Diva

What Commercial Landlords Think About Dogs in the Workplace

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They don’t like it!  Historically in San Francisco, there was an almost absolute ban on dogs in the workplace.  Then the most recent tech revolution began.  For the techies, dogs are important to the success of their companies and employee retention.  Thus, San Francisco commercial landlords (and commercial landlords in other markets) have been forced to permit dogs in order to attract and retain high-tech tenants. 

Landlords have 4 big fears about dogs in the workplace:

1. Vicious Dogs

Although (as far as I know) we’ve yet to see a case litigated with regard to commercial landlord liability for a tenant dog bite or attack in the commercial setting, these cases are being litigated in the residential setting.  In the residential setting, landlords are typically only found liable if they had knowledge of the dangerous propensity of a residential tenant’s dog.  [Landlord liable for injury caused by tenant's dog because landlord knew dog had bitten someone before, see Linebaugh v. Hyndman , 516 A.2d 638 (1986) aff'd, 524 A.2d 1255 (1987); Landlord not liable for dog bite because had no knowledge of prior dog bite, see, Georgianna v. Gizzy, 483 N.Y.S.2d 892, 126 Misc. 2d 766 (1984).]  At a minimum, a commercial landlord may wish to consider including a provision in the lease that any dog who has exhibited aggressive behavior would be immediately banned from the Building.

2. Complaints by Other Tenants

Commercial landlords often wish to ensure that dogs have access to the leased premises without encountering other tenants.  They may ban dogs from the passenger elevators and only allow dogs to use the freight elevators.  Commercial landlords should also walk the path of travel and evaluate possible dangers.  They will want to identify and indicate to the tenant the location of an outside area for “elimination” that is accessible to dogs without interfering with the enjoyment of the office project by the other tenants.  

A big headache for commercial landlords is mediating complaints among the various tenants.  Thus, the landlord may wish to consider adding language to the lease that if a tenant has a reasonable, verifiable complaint about a particular dog, that tenant must investigate and address the issue, with landlord being the ultimate arbiter of the situation.

3. Mess/Chaos

Perhaps the overarching fear for landlords of Class A buildings is that dogs will bring unprecedented mess and chaos which is inconsistent with their ability to operate a Class A building.  Clearly, the tenant must be responsible for reimbursing landlord for any costs incurred in connection with the presence of dogs, e.g., extra janitorial required in common areas due to dogs.  Tenant’s maintenance and repair, indemnity and insurance obligations in the lease should also include all losses attributable to the tenant’s dogs.

4. Burden on Property Management

Clearly, having dogs in the leased premises is a burden on the office project, in particular on property management.  Once the lease is signed, the tenant’s dog policy is implemented and the tenant moves into the space, the commercial landlord is going to have to implement a “dog police” program.  So landlord has to monitor that the number of dogs and their behavior is consistent with the requirements of the lease.

Leasing Diva’s word to the wise for landlords: For an overview of sanctions that commercial landlords use for violations of the right to have dogs in the leased premises, see my blog post on Consequences for Violation of a Commercial Tenant’s Dog Policy.

Pets at WorkJo Ann Woodsum