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by Steven Williams

landlord helpQ: I have a tenant who was recently arrested for sexually abusing children in the neighborhood.

While the tenant has denied the charges, many other tenants have insisted that I evict the tenant.

What can I do?

A: Most leases do not address these situations.

While many leases provide for an eviction when a tenant violates the law, landlords are usually unable to prove that the tenant actually broke the law.

Unless a tenant is convicted or pleads guilty, or you have an eyewitness who is willing to testify that the crime occurred, you will likely not be able to prove the tenant violated law.

Of course, in most cases, you will have no witnesses willing to testify, and your other tenants will not want to wait for the adjudication of the criminal charges. In most cases, you can do little more than inform your tenants that you are unable to evict the tenant.

You can anticipate these situations, though, and plan for them. If you plan properly, you can be successful in evicting tenants who have been charged with crimes. In order to be successful, your lease must list an arrest as an event of default. You should specify which crimes fall into this category since most judges will not evict a tenant for low grade offenses.

To increase your odds of success, I suggest this provision:

Tenant will be in default if Tenant or any occupant of the Property is arrested of, is convicted of, pleads guilty to, pleads no contest to, or is given deferred adjudication for: a) any felony offense; or b) any misdemeanor or other offense involving actual or potential physical harm to any person, or involving possession, use, manufacture, sale or delivery of illegal drugs, controlled substances, or drug paraphernalia.

It is important to note, however, that some jurisdictions laws make it illegal to evict a victim of domestic violence simply because of the occurrence of violence on the premises. In these jurisdictions, landlords who wish to utilize the lease provision suggested above must be cognizant of the fact that they may not be able to enforce it in the case of a domestic violence situation.

Steven Williams is a partner at the law firm of Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC. He concentrates his practice in the areas of commercial and civil litigation, real estate, landlord and tenant law, employment law, business and corporate law, and construction law. He can be contacted at:



See our feature, 3 Common Ways to Botch Your Eviction.

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  • The one issue is that the eviction would come before the conviction. We live in a society where guilt needs to be proven in a court of law. An arrest (albeit these days people who get arrested are usually guilty) does not automatically prove guilt. Wouldn’t evicting a tenant before they are convicted be more like guilty until proven innocent? This is a very sensitive subject for a property owner especially if the crime is of a heinous nature like sexual assault or molestation. Tenants staying in a complex while facing charges such as these could cause a mass exodus from a property but is that reason enough to violate the accused civil rights. I definitely don’t have the answer on this one but I think that it should be discussed and debated thoroughly.


    Good screening of tenants is important. Having a professional firm that can run back ground checks for criminal histories including sex offender registries can be critical to ensuring that you’ve done your due diligence to provide a safe community. A missed registration or failure to properly screen a renter could become the basis of civil claims against you as a property manager. Using a background screening firm that is not bonded and insured to handle such work also harbors bad omens for a manager; questions are raised like “why didn’t you use a reputable firm? did you screen the firm on the better business bureau website and yelp? did you ask if the firm was insured? how long has the firm been in business?….”
    Many sex offenders have prior records and can be screened using a proper background check system. Same with other kinds of offenders.
    If you screen for bad credit and other civil problems, dont you think that screening for actual violent and dangerous criminals is the LEAST you can do to protect your community?

  • Bob Franks

    I feel for this guy. Owning several apartment buildings, the Erin Andrews lawsuit made me question my own security policies. Although the pervert filmed her through a peephole, with a reverse door viewer, at a hotel -all of my apartments have peepholes too. I asked my insurance agent about my exposure and he said I was “a dead duck” if it happened on one of my properties. Everyone is on notice now that it has gained national attention. I have since ordered “secureaview peephole covers” for all of my units. The tenant’s responses have been great and I think I actually rented a couple of units because it showed I cared about my tenants.


    I have never had a problem evicting this type of tenant. We have a form that EVERY tenat must sign when they sign the lease regarding sex offender policies. Bottom line is that if you are serious about keeping your tenants and your community safe, you do what you need to within the law. And sometimes that means if it abosutley comes down to it…paying a tenant to leave.

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