There are several practical steps landlords can take to avoid trouble caused by criminal tenants and to limit their liability in any lawsuits that are filed:
- Screen tenants carefully and choose tenants who are likely to be law-abiding and peaceful citizens. Weed out violent or dangerous individuals to the extent allowable under privacy and anti-discrimination laws that may limit questions about a tenant's past criminal activity, drug use, or mental illness.
- Don't accept cash rental payments.
- Do not tolerate tenants' disruptive behavior. Include an explicit provision in the lease or rental agreement prohibiting drug dealing and other illegal activity and promptly evict tenants who violate the clause.
- Be aware of suspicious activity, such as heavy traffic in and out of the rental premises.
- Respond to tenant and neighbor complaints about drug dealing on the rental property. Get advice from police immediately upon learning of a problem.
- Consult with security experts to do everything reasonable to discover and prevent illegal activity on the rental property.
For More Information
For a guide to help landlords identify common risky situations and get specific, practical advice for dealing with them, read Every Landlord's Property Protection Guide: 10 Ways to Cut Your Risk Now, by Ron Leshnower (Nolo).