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FAQ - Landlord Responsibilities: Criminal Activities

Landlords have varying degrees of liability for criminal activity on their rental property. Their liability depends on the type of crime and their duty to their tenant. For example, landlords must keep their rental property safe and take reasonable measures to protect their tenants.

This article explores landlord responsibilities for criminal activities on their rental property.

What is the relationship between crime and property values?

Different types of crimes negatively impact a property's value. Violent crimes, like homicide and proximity to persons on a sex offender registry, can hurt the valuation of real property. Most homebuyers and renters don't want to live in those communities. Prospective buyers should do their due diligence before moving forward with a real estate transaction.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits real estate industry professionals, like realtors and real estate agents, from commenting on a neighborhood's safety. Questions about crime rates or demographics are often perceived as discriminatory. Potential property owners should check with their local police department or public safety officers and not risk violating federal law.

Is a landlord responsible for tenant safety?

State laws and local ordinances govern a property owner's responsibility for tenant safety. Your local housing codes are also a good source of a landlord's responsibility for tenant safety. Housing codes often determine the safety measures landlords should follow. These safety measures include external and internal locks.

Landlords should know the neighborhood crime rates and past criminal activity close to their property. This information will help landlords take steps to protect their tenants.

What is the relationship between criminal activity and the real estate market?

Criminal activity, or the lack thereof, can drive housing prices in either direction. An increase in local crime can depress sale prices, while a decrease in local crime can stabilize a housing market. Prospective property owners should check the last year's crime records as part of their due diligence.

How can a prospective tenant or buyer determine the crime rate in a given area?

Prospective tenants and buyers, like landlords, can research crime statistics. Local law enforcement's websites and social media are one source of such information.

Can landlords limit their responsibility for the criminal acts of non-tenants?

Yes, there are steps that a landlord can take to lessen the chances of crimes committed on the rental property and reduce the landlord's liability.

Landlords should consider the following:

  • They should ensure that each rental unit meets or exceeds the safety laws of the municipality. For example, many localities require all residential rental properties to have a locking doorknob and a deadbolt.
  • They should be aware of the crime statistics in the area surrounding the rental property.
  • They should encourage tenants to inform the landlord about potential security or safety problems. These safety concerns should be handled promptly.
  • They should continually update security measures like alarms and cameras.
  • If you are a landlord, be careful and deliberate when it comes to choosing a property manager.

Can landlords face legal trouble for tenants that deal drugs on the rental property?

Yes, they can. If a landlord rents to a tenant who engages in criminal activity in their rental unit, they may face liability.

  • The landlord may face fines stemming from various federal or local laws.
  • An injured party could sue the landlord, claiming that the rental property poses a danger to the community.
  • Finally, criminal activity in or around the rental property will decrease its value.

Can landlords limit their liability for a tenant's criminal conduct?

There are several steps that a landlord can take to limit potential liability from a tenant's criminal activity. A landlord should consider the following:

  • Screen tenants carefully. Ask critical questions on rental applications to protect yourself.
  • Landlords should include an explicit clause in the rental agreement stating the landlord can evict any tenant involved in illegal activity on the rental property.

Get Help

If you are a landlord dealing with illegal activities at a rental property, a landlord-tenant attorney can help. They are experts in landlord-tenant law and can give you sound legal advice. Speak to an experienced local landlord-tenant law attorney today.

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