Let's talk about landlord liability for criminal activity and what a landlord needs to know when dealing with tenants who do commit crimes behind closed doors.
You do have landlord responsibility for illegal activity for tenants and tenants have protection against landlords.
So let's find out what you can do when you find out someone is committing an offence.
Or can a landlord be held liable for nuisance tenants? It's all here.
Types of offences that could be going...
Types of offences that landlords face every day...
Landlord responsible for tenant's actions regarding prostitution.
Many landlords face tenants using their homes as a brothel and this is a very sensitive matter because you cannot just ask if they are using your premises as a one. You must do your own homework.
Yes, we know it can be against the law but what can you do about it?
Well, the first thing you need to do is make sure you have evidence that they are using your premises as a brothel. The only way you can do that (well one way) is by watching your flat or house for unusual activity.
You could also chap the door and hand over a document that your tenant needs, or come up with some other excuse so you can access the premises without them getting suspicious. If they answer the door dressed in that kind of manner, then you'll know or have some idea when the evidence is put together in your own mind.
When you do come to a conclusion and you know for sure that they are using your premises as a brothel, then you can move on to the next step.
You can either...
Next, we'll discuss...
You may come across a violent tenant from time to time and you may not be happy with that. Violence may not directly affect you as a landlord but it could affect other people around that premises i.e your neighbours.
If you do find a tenant that comes over quite aggressive and you don't like the attitude he or she gives out, then it may be time to get rid of them.
A landlord is certainly not an easy job like most people think it is, but there's always a cloud over a silver lining. You have the law on your side, but remember so do your tenants.
Here are a few options for you to consider...
Now we'll get on to drugs...
Another common type of criminal activity is drug dealing and using drugs and we all know where this ends up. If you do suspect any sort of drug dealing at all or you have been told about it from a friend or family about the tenant, do something about it because you do have landlord responsibility for illegal activity.
Drug dealing not only affects surrounding neighbours but affects the society as a whole.
Note: Can a landlord be held liable for nuisance tenants for drug dealing? No way - as long as you act on it before it's too late or something happens to them. Protect you at all costs.
When you find somebody dealing cannabis, cocaine or heroin from a third party, you as a landlord will need to make a move. Here are a few steps for you to consider when this happens (if it ever does to you).
Drug dealing from the property is definitely a worry for you because you don't want your neighbours thinking that you rent out to just any old person. Landlords face that every single day and there are some landlords that let the tenant away with murder.
Private tenants can be a nightmare only if you let them be, but drug dealing is just out of the question and they should be evicted.
Approach with ethical responsibilities and you'll be fine.
So what about growing drugs...
There are very clear signs when you grow cannabis plants, and to be honest, if you look hard enough you'll find them. It is also common knowledge that drug dealers will rig the electricity meter so they can grow their drugs in a profitable, business-like manner.
Here are some signs to look out for...
If you ever do a home visit or a gas safety inspection (like good landlords do), have a look around.
As a human being, you will be aware of human emotions and what body language they give out.
If you have a new tenant and you don't know them yet, it's a good idea to check the electricity meter to make sure they have not interfered with it. Interfering with the electricity meter can be a sign of drug dealing or it could be a tenant that just loves breaking law.
Electricity companies now have a good system to detect this, they can usually tell if a meter has been interfered with from the head office. They will send someone out to inspect.
If you get any letters from the electricity board or whatever company you're with asking for a meter reading or asking for a home visit because there's something not quite right, then all you need to do is follow their guidance.
The landlord will not be liable for this as long as you did not know about it and have a tenancy agreement in place with the tenant's name on it.
The same goes for the gas meter, yes, you can rig the gas meters too and it is sometimes easier than the electricity meter. All the tenant will need to do is find an empty house and replace their gas meter, with the one they have stolen.
It's really that simple and something you should watch out for. You can check this without even going into the property as most gas meters are fitted to the outside of the building.
Note: And again, landlord responsibility for tenant safety is something you should never take lightly. Because if the court finds out that you knew about it, you could get charged too. Could.
Next... Is someone living there you don't know?
Subletting without your knowledge can be a very worrying issue, especially when you don't know who is living at your property. This is how it works if you don't know already...
This usually happens with DSS tenants because the rent is being paid by the local government, so they can make some extra cash on the back of the rented house or flat.
The government finds this behaviour against the law and very illegal. Landlords should be prepared to do something about it as soon as they find this out. Act on landlord responsibility for illegal activity as soon as you know about it or you could end up in trouble in court at some point.
If a tenant goes to jail, you have a few options depending on what type of landlord you are. If they are paying their rent while they're in jail and they went to jail for something that they couldn't have avoided, then it's up to you, what you want to do.
The government will pay benefits for a period of six weeks or more after you go to jail and housing benefit will also be honoured.
This is a bit of a sticky argument between you and the tenant, but it can be resolved if they write you a letter or call you to let you know in advance they are going to prison. If the tenant is only young and he/she goes to prison for a fine because he can't pay it, and it's only for a few weeks, you could leave it and keep an eye on her/him over the next few months to make sure they keep out of trouble.
The last thing you want is nuisance tenant.
Note: Make sure you are informed about landlord responsibility for illegal activity and know what matters. Ask your lawyer or find out from the Citizen's Advice here.
Going to prison is a very delicate subject for the tenant and their families and you as a landlord. So make sure you choose the appropriate action and stick to it and don't be too bashful because it could be more hassle than it's worth, as you may have a great tenant that made one silly mistake.
If you have a tenant that's been in your property for a while, then they cause problems with neighbours, you should really look into it.
The last thing you want is to fall out with your neighbours over a bad tenant. Because you could end up moving into that home one day, you never know, and at the end of the day, you own that property.
Here are a few things you can do to solve this problem...
If the matter persists and you get nowhere over the course of three months or so, then you may have to do something about it. A landlord's job is never done because there is always something you need to do or sort out. Sometimes it feels like being a social worker as well as a landlord but that comes as part of the job.
Now for the not so illegal stuff...
When a tenant doesn't pay the bills, it's not really an illegal or criminal matter, but I feel I should mention this in this article because I think it's important. When you find that a tenant is not paying the bills, it can effect tenant in a big way by the electricity and gas company.
It can ring up a debt on the meter, meaning the bills will be higher from month to month. This is bad news for you because you don't want a tenant with debt as your rent is more important, right?
If that did happen, it is a good idea to install prepaid meters on your property if you're renting out to DSS tenants because this helps them keep the heating and electric on and it saves them from getting into debt like I just said.
However, if your tenants are working and are able to afford the bills, but not paying them, let it go for a while because they may end up catching up. If they don't, it's nothing for you to worry about because your credit rating with the electricity and gas companies will not be affected.
Under what conditions can a landlord become liable for a crime?
They are certain conditions that landlords must follow by law but not many. As long as you do the annual inspection for gas and electricity and you make sure that there is running water, that's it. The property also needs to be in a livable condition, so be prepared to spend a few pounds every year because the tenant does have right and they could catch you out at court if you fail as a landlord.
If you do all this and follow the right procedures. You'll be fine.
When you know you have broken the rules and you know that the law is going to come in on top of you, get a lawyer because you'll need one. The times are gone when landlords got away with things they used to, now the law doesn't like landlords that do break the law.
If you are a decent landlord and you know all the rules and regulations, you have nothing to worry about.
Follow them, abide by the law, always.
According to the landlord and tenant act 1987, you as a landlord do have eviction rights if the tenant fails to pay their rent or does something illegal. Landlords can give notice and in 21 days, they are out. The tenant must leave and if they don't you can apply to the court to have them removed. You can find out more information from the government's website by clicking this link here.
Or you can find out more information about eviction and landlord information here
Installing CCTV on your property is something you can think about, but something you have to take into consideration very carefully. Firstly, you need to ask your tenants for permission, it's not law but it is nice to ask.
If you find out that your tenant is drug dealing or committing another criminal offence, then you can do it without asking for permission because it is your property after all.
When you install CCTV, you can watch you from anywhere in the world, then look back at what is happening around the property at night and during the day. Make sure you installed the CCTV equipment properly because a dodgy job will end up in giving you more headaches. The system shouldn't cost you more than £1,500 for a very good one, one that will last the test of time with clear HD pictures.
Get a local CCTV installer to fit it, and please remember whatever you do, do not buy from Maplin because their equipment is cheap and nasty from my experience. And also you get no support, well no real support when it comes to it because they can't be there when you are installing it or trying to configure it, but a local company can.
Note: You do pay a bit more from a local company but at the end of the day, you pay for what you get. You can make it easier and show the court if the landlord was responsible for tenant behaviour or was it the tenant?
Prove it with CCTV at home for landlords.
Here's some great links for CCTV information and installation below.
It is a good idea to build up a relationship with your tenant, whatever you do as a landlord because it makes life easier. I am not saying to go around there for tea and cookies, all I'm saying is get to know them by their first name and talk to him/her as a friend.
Just like any person, you talk to and you'll get a lot more out of your landlord experience.
Checking on them once a month or maybe every 5/6 weeks. This will make sure that no criminal activity is going ahead and that you see nothing odd or out of place. It helps you sleep better at night knowing your premises is being looked after.
Whenever you take on a new tenant, it is a good idea to do a tenant reference check. It only cost about £50 and sometimes much cheaper, but it is well worth it. The information that comes back from the report is very valuable because it includes; where they have stayed in the past and information about their credit worthiness and a lot more information when you see it for yourself.
You can find out more information about tenants and their credit rating by following this link.
So there you go, all the information you need on landlord liability for criminal activity and what to do when things go pear-shaped. All you need to do is use your own instincts and follow your gut.
If you see anything going on suspiciously, take your own action or call the police if it's really serious. And by checking your tenant out in the first place by doing the appropriate checks, you could save yourself a lot of hassle in the future.
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