Criminal Acts and Activities: Landlord Liability FAQ

How can a property owner avoid liability because of tenants who deal drugs or otherwise break the law?

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Questions:

Answer:

How can a property owner avoid liability because of tenants who deal drugs or otherwise break the law?

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).

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