Screening Tenants for Criminal Activity

Aug 15, 2008 - 1:41 pm | By

The importance of maintaining a safe living environment for your tenants cannot be stressed enough, specifically with regard to criminal activity.  According to, “A landlord can be sued for failing to take at least minimal steps to alleviate the risk posed by a violent tenant, a Court has ruled.” The court action’s purpose was to clarify the term “heightened foreseeabillity” and the duty of the landlord to the tenants.  The case law indicates that the tenant had a previous history of intimidating behavior and brandishing a firearm at other tenants. 

To protect against these type of lawsuits, a landlord or property owner/manager should conduct a thorough inspection of their property and determine any environmental concerns that might breed crime, such as back alleys, dark corridors, lack of lighting, security guards or security cameras.   Consider whether your property needs a security guard or security camera.  Is the parking area safe?   Next review any criminal activity that has occurred on the premises and determine whether the same factors leading to this case could arise again.  Are the same tenants still living in the building?  Then, consider whether you can conduct an annual criminal background check on your tenants.  Depending on the laws of your jurisdiction, consider including such language in the body your initial tenant background check release form.   Keep your property safe from crime will limit and reduce any possible lawsuits filed against you for negligence.

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