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Kentucky Landlord Found Not Guilty

Law booksA sixty-nine year old Kentucky man was charged with more than 32 criminal counts by the federal government for renting to as many as 60 illegal aliens. The landlord faced forfeiture of his properties and up to 20 years in prison. The case is thought to be the first of its kind.

The government attempted in invoke the harboring statutes, designed to prevent human trafficking and work force violations, against a private business owner. The defendant, William Jerry Hadden owns two apartment buildings in the Lexington area.

The landlord was also charged with hiring an illegal alien as a manager of one of the apartment complexes. This man testified that when applying for the position, he presented Mr. Hadden with a false social security number, one assigned to his son. Other residents offered testimony that they supplied documentation from their country of origin rather than U.S. identification or a Social Security Card.

The indictment charged that when Hadden translated his application into Spanish, didn’t request Social Security Numbers, and stopped running credit checks, he violated federal law. The landlord countered that he was attempting to take advantage of the growing need for housing in the immigrant community in his town.

“Have job, will rent. That was my policy,” Mr. Hadden testified. He also stated that he was not concerned with blanks on rental applications because he knew of no legal requirements to obtain SSN’s.

The Kentucky Chapter of the ACLU’s position is that it is not illegal to rent an apartment to an illegal alien, nor is it a landlord’s duty to check a tenant’s immigration status. Local laws requiring such a duty have been challenged.

A Social Security Administration employee stated at the trial that some legal aliens do not possess SSN’s, but would have “some other form of government-issued identification.” Hadden stated that he feared his asking about immigration status would violate fair housing laws.

Other advocate groups have taken the position that the federal government was attempting to coerce private citizens into enforcing its immigration policy. They warned that a guilty verdict in this case could translate into liability for any private business owners who take money from illegals. For example a liquor store owner would violate the law by selling products to an illegal alien.

The government was required to provide public education about this particular law. The judge decided that because the government had expended little effort on public notification of the specific requirements, Mr. Hadden could rightfully ‘plead ignorance’ in this case.

Last week, the jury found him not guilty. To be convicted under the federal law, the government would have had to prove that the landlord intended to conceal the tenants.

Click here to read How to Screen a Tenant Who Does Not Have a Social Security Number.

Click here for more on this topic.

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