The Kentucky state legislature has passed two important laws impacting landlords and tenants during the recently completed session. HB 112 relates to landlord liability when a tenant-owned dog attacks someone on their rental property. HB 309 adds certain protections to domestic violence victims.

HB 112

In 2012, the Kentucky Supreme Court examined Kentucky's dog-bite statute in Benningfield v. Zinsmeister. The Court then ruled that a dog's "owner" included a landlord who permitted the animal to be on its property. In the event of a dog bite, this could subject the landlord to liability.

HB 112 reverses the Benningfield decision by chaining the definition of "owner." An owner of a dog now includes every person who:
1) keeps or harbors a dog;
2) has the dog in his care;
3) permits the dog to remain or or about premises owned and occupied by him; or
4) permits the dog to remain on or about premises leased and occupied by him.

The change in subparagraph 3 from "owned or occupied" to "owned and occupied" implicates only owner-occupied property. The new subparagraph 4 relates to rental property ("leased and occupied"), but does not subject the landlord to liability.

HB 309

Signed by the governor into law on April 11, 2017, this bill provides additional protections for residential tenants who are victims of domestic violence.

If a tenant holds a domestic violence order, a pretrial release no-contact order, or an interpersonal protective order, then that tenant may terminate a lease upon thirty days' notice to their landlord. Any lease so terminated would continue for any co-tenants. The purpose of this bill was to give domestic violence victims and their children the opportunity to relocate themselves without suffering lease cancellation damages.

The legislation also created a new cause of action for landlords so that they can recover their economic losses from the person restrained by the protective order.

Protected tenants may also change their locks, but they must inform the landlord of their intent to install a new lock.

HB 309 also makes prohibits landlords from denying a lease to individuals who are protected by a domestic violence order, a pretrial release no-contact order, or an interpersonal protective order.

Both bills were passed on a non-emergency basis and will become effective on June 29, 2017.