by Steven Williams
Q: 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: SWilliams@cohenseglias.com
See our feature, 3 Common Ways to Botch Your Eviction.
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