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This is Your Rental Property on Drugs . . .

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Landlords and property owners have some degree of legal responsibility to protect tenants and neighbors from illegal activities, which may be taking place on their property. These illegal activities include criminal acts and drug dealing. According to NOLO Law for all, landlords and rental property owners are being sued (with increasing frequency) by people who are injured or annoyed by criminal acts occurring on a rental property. Landlords are especially likely to be held liable when a crime takes place on a property where illegal activity has occurred in the past. The following questions and guidelines can help landlords avoid costly lawsuits, and keep other tenants and neighborhoods safe.

What kind of legal trouble do landlords face from tenants who deal drugs on the property?

  • Anyone who is injured or annoyed by drug dealers, including people in the neighborhood, may sue the landlord on the grounds that the property is a public nuisance that seriously threatens public safety or morals.
  • Authorities may levy stiff fines against landlords for allowing illegal activity to continue.
  • Law enforcement may seek criminal penalties against the landlord for knowingly allowing drug dealing on the rental property.
  • In extreme cases, the presence of drug dealers may result in the government confiscating the rental property.
  • A drug dealing environment can make it difficult to find and keep good tenants, and the value of the rental property will plummet.

How can a property owner avoid liability because of tenants who participate in illegal activities on the property?

  • 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.
  • 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.

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