General Question

Zaku's avatar

Is a landlord responsible for his tenants' actions?

Asked by Zaku (12040 points ) May 26th, 2009

In what cases can a landlord be held responsible for actions of his tenants?
This keeps coming up for a friend of mine who owns a rental property next to another rental property owned by a friend. One renter in each property. When the renters don’t get along and one starts being annoying or abusive in one way or another, the tenants tend to start complaining to one or both landlords seeing if they can get any leverage, and sometimes implying that the landlord is responsible for the alleged actions of their tenant.
I wonder if the landlord has any responsibility other than to make reasonable communications and requests to keep the peace. Does anyone here know the actual legal limits of a landlord’s responsibility for his tenants’ actions? If a tenant does damage to a neighbor, can the landlord be held accountable, and in what circumstances?

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14 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

It is the responsibility of the landlord to see that every tenant follows the provisions of the lease and the ‘understood’ provisions of livability in the unit. For instance, if tenant A makes the rental of tenant B unlivable, it is the responsibility of the landlord to restore order. I read of a recent case where the landlord was given a citation for the excess noice of the tenant.

In California, they have passed regulations that make the landlord responsible for the illegal activities of the tenants, as well.

bea2345's avatar

I learned that proprietors of hotels, guesthouses and the like, in my country, are liable for the conduct of their clients. For example, a friend of mine was evicted from a hotel in Port of Spain because he smoked marijuana on the premises. The proprietress told me that the police could raid the place on suspicion, with or without a warrant. That is one of the reasons that so many drug abusers are homeless: they are a danger to their neighbours.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think he’s technically responsible for every action taken by a tenant but he is responsible for putting an end to actions that are not acceptable

Zaku's avatar

Wow. So I have read that in general the landlord is responsible for some damages associated with their property if they know about a risk, and they fail to take reasonable actions. I suppose one then has to look to the local law and lawyers to find out what’s considered to be reasonable action.

Zaku's avatar

Thanks everyone!

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Ultimately the landlord is responsible. Property owners are expected to create a safe living environment for their tenants and if they fail to do so out of negligence, they can be held liable.

The property has rules of conduct as established by the terms of your lease. Anyone who is in violation of those rules can be evicted.

If their property is damaged by a tenant, the tenant is liable.

Zaku's avatar

Interesting, Heretic, as literally in this case, if my friend’s tenant attacks her neighbor’s tenant, the neighbor’s landlord would be responsible, in theory. ;-)

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Zaku No. The attacker would be responsible if that happened.

Judi's avatar

The landlords responsibility is to provide for the quiet enjoyment of the resident.
It is a matter of avoiding a law suit in the future. Sometimes, the costly lawsuit is enough to get a landlord to do something even if they have no real legal responsibility to do it.
If someone were to get hurt the test usually is, “Did the landlord know or should have known that a threat existed, and what did they do to mitigate the threat.
The courts decide what percentage of liability each person has and awards damages.
A property owner who can show documentation that they made every reasonable effort to avoid a dangerous confrontation has less liability than someone who just ignored the problem.

Zaku's avatar

@Judi Really? So you are saying that even a landlord who made every reasonable effort to avoid a dangerous confrontation between tenants, might still be found liable to some degree? So far I’ve only seen things saying the landlord is liable by when they are negligent, but then the grey area is what is reasonable and sufficient in each case. But if there is a precedent for the landlord being liable even if it’s agreed they did everything reasonable, I’d like to know about that.

Judi's avatar

He may only be liable if he is negligent, but he might still be sued. The cost of a law suit usually causes landlords and insurance companies to settle for less because its cheaper than going through the entire court process, which is still a crap shoot depending on the judge, and/or Jury you draw. We lost a low dollar small claims case when the resident caused a fire in his own apartment. He claimed that when the smoke (he created) went through the air conditioning system it damaged items in other rooms. He won. Wrong? Of course, but in the court room the judge is God. The cost to appeal would have been more than the judge awarded.

Zaku's avatar

Good point. Sigh.

acalver17's avatar

Is landlord responsible when his tenant trespasses my property or ruins my fence?

obtain1's avatar

management company for a block of flats that i am the lease owner of one flat has informed me recently that my tennant is making a nuisance of himself to some of the other tennants,my tennant has lived in the flat for 14 years always paid the rent on time never created any problems for me.in the 14 years the tennant has been there i have only been informed by the management company of two case of him causing any type of problem,one of the complaints made is a i think a duplication of a complaint made to me two years ago,i have spoken to my tennant he denies all knowledge of the charges against him, i have now been told have been told by the company chairman and the secretary by email that a freeholder in the block may well be looking to me for recompense as his tennant left,i am of the opinion that there may be a hidden agenda involved with regard the secretary and company chairman,i need to now what the legal position is,and if there is any legal action i can take against the chairman and secretary,if i can prove they are using there positions within the company inappropriatly

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