New Crime-Free Law: Landlord Participation Mandatory

In an effort to clean up neighborhoods, the city of Dover, Delaware has passed a new anti-crime ordinance that allows city officials to order tenants be evicted — and landlords’ participation is mandatory.

According to a news report, the measure received unanimous approval this week.

The new ordinance identifies certain crimes for which a tenant must be evicted. These crimes include: offensive touching, menacing, vehicular assault, sexual harassment, indecent exposure, criminal mischief, graffiti, trespass, criminal trespassing, crime against a vulnerable adult, unlawfully dealing with a child, disorderly conduct, malicious interference with emergency communications, public intoxication, loitering, criminal nuisance, obstructing of public passage, lewdness, prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, unlawfully dealing with a dangerous weapon, and unlawfully dealing with a switchblade knife.

Under the measure, the city will notify the landlord of an offense, and the landlord will have 30 days to initiate eviction, or otherwise get the tenant out of the property.

Under the language of the ordinance, the tenant does not need to be involved in the crime to face mandatory eviction. The rules apply if any member of the tenant€„¢s household, any guest or other person under the tenant€„¢s control engages in criminal activity on or within 500 feet of the lot on which the rental dwelling resides, on three or more occasions within a 12-month period.

An interesting facet of the law is that it does not require conviction of the charges, which can be a sticking point for landlords seeking to evict a tenant based on the suspicion of criminal activity.

Landlords also will be required to incorporate a new “Safe Communities” anti-crime addendum into lease agreements.

Officials are offering at least two crime-fighting seminars per year. While attendance is generally voluntary, any landlord who has run afoul of the law, including omitting the lease addendum, will be required to attend a seminar.

The penalty for failing to evict a tenant under the new law is suspension of the rental license.

It does not appear that the law offers any exception for cases where the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household is the victim of the crime, although councilmembers did delete the language “or associated with” Â from the draft bill, possibly to avoid conflicts with laws protecting victims of domestic violence. It is within the discretion of city officials to decide whether to refer a tenant for eviction.

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