I suspect that my tenant is attracting gang activity to his/her unit, and I fear for the safety of my other tenants. What is my legal responsibility to protect my tenants and how do I proceed with the situation?
A landlord has an obligation to ensure the quiet enjoyment of the premises for all occupants. If a landlord is aware and/or placed on notice that an individual’s misconduct is potentially harmful to others, the landlord should take steps to prevent such misconduct from occurring. Failure to do so, could result in the landlord being civilly and financially liable for the harm done. Courts may impose liability based on contract, covenant of quiet enjoyment, implied warranty of habitability and/or tort principles. Under the tort theories of negligence and premises liability, a landlord has a duty to his tenants to keep the premises safe and warn of any dangerous conditions, such as criminal activity on thenpremises. If a landlord has notice of criminal activity, he has a legal responsibility to take steps to secure the common areas. Failure to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to the tenants may result in liability.
Accordingly, if a landlord believes that a tenant is involved in gang-related conduct, a landlord should immediately notify the police and take steps to retain an attorney and seek the removal of the person from the premises. However, gang affiliation alone is probably not sufficient. Rather, it is more important for the landlord to be able to identify actual disturbances, threats, harassment, criminal activity, loitering and/or misbehavior that would justify the removal of the individual for either engaging in illegal conduct or conduct of a nuisance character. For example, if the tenant and his “friends” are loitering in the building’s common areas at all hours of the night, drinking alcohol, causing other building occupants to be kept from sleeping due to the noise and disturbances, the landlord should first give notification to cease said conduct, and if it continues, serve a formal notice to cure or quit for nuisance. Should the disturbance remain unabated, then the landlord can in good faith proceed with an eviction.
- Daniel Bornstein and Liana Ayrapetyan, Bornstein & Bornstein
The information contained in this article is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. As published in Rental Housing, the magazine of The East Bay rental Housing Association.