The dozens of day to day responsibilities required to be a landlord can cause important liability concerns to go unattended. Criminal acts and activities may not be an everyday occurrence, but that doesn’t mean landlords should wait for a crime to occur before they start thinking about protecting themselves from a lawsuit. More lawsuits are being filed against landlords in an attempt to hold them accountable for crimes occurring on their rental property. These crimes can involve both outsiders who break into the property or tenants’ criminal activity. In this educational guide, we will answer common landlord liability questions when it comes to criminal acts and activities. We’ll address everything from landlord responsibility for drug use and preventive measures. A lawsuit and settlement can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t expose yourself to this risk. Read this guide to understand your liability and take steps towards creating an asset protection strategy.
While laws differ from state to state, landlords in most states do have some level of legal responsibility for criminal acts and activities. Landlords hold some responsibility for protecting their tenants from the criminal actions of outsiders that occur on the property. These include robberies, vandalism, and violent attacks such as shootings or rapes. Landlords are also responsible for crimes committed by current tenants against other tenants. More specifically, landlords can be held responsible for allowing a tenant’s illegal drug activity on their property. These illegal drug activities can threaten the safety of other tenants. Also, landlords have a wider responsibility towards their surrounding neighborhood. For instance, landlords can be held liable for allowing their tenants to continue with dangerous and illegal drug activity, which spills over to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The above mentioned legal responsibilities stem from the following categories:
Drug dealing tenants pose several business and legal consequences. Here are a few consequences all landlords should keep in mind:
Landlords should also note that the above mentioned consequences are not only triggered by direct drug dealing, but also illegally manufacturing or growing drugs. Thus, landlords shouldn’t turn a blind eye to illegal drug activity. A meth lab or illegal crop of marijuana can cost landlords thousands of dollars and criminal charges.
In our own experience working with landlords, we’ve found that some simple preventive measures can be put in place to avoid landlord liability in tenant drug cases. Establishing preventive policies during the tenant screening process and acting early in response to potential illegal drug activity is key to preventing costly liability issues. Here are some ways to prevent potential illegal activity through a careful screening process.
As you can see, some practical steps can be taken to prevent potential liability issues relating to illegal tenant drug activity. The screening process is especially important in steering away drug dealers, but it should be done in a way that doesn’t violate anti-discriminatory housing laws. However, with the heavy proliferation of illegal drug activity, even careful landlords can find themselves in legal trouble. Our legal experts can assist with current drug related cases and help prevent future liability problems. Contact our experienced legal professionals today.
Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.
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