Mass Landlord’s Responsibility To Tenants

I am often asked ” What is a Mass landlord’s responsibility to tenants when other tenants are engaging in dangerous behavior?” As with many things in the law there is no clear up, one size fits all, answer. As a general rule, a landlord does not owe a duty to take affirmative steps to protect tenants against dangerous or unlawful acts of other tenants or third parties. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has, however, ruled that in certain circumstances, “[l]andlords may be liable for ignoring criminal activities that occur on [their] premises and were known or should have been known to them.” Griffiths v. Campbell, 425 Mass. at 34. More particularly, liability may be imposed against the landlord in cases in which a person legally on the premises is attacked, and the owner or landlord knew of or should have known of the previous attack. This is true especially where the potential for a recurrence is based on a failure to take measures to make the premises safe. If a tenant, or the local police, report issues of violence, assaults or weapons at your rental premises you should take immediate steps to investigate and eliminate the problem. If a landlord finds a tenant has been criminally charged with a crime of violence it is best practice to conduct a further investigation into the matter. But, remember criminal defendants are considered to be innocent until the either admit or are proven guilty. Once a determination of guilt is made there are provisions in the law allowing landlords to terminate leases so they can begin the eviction process. Periodically making sure the entrance locks are secure and functioning properly is advisable. More problematic is the “should have known” factor. Absentee landlords are rarely at the premises during the hours most criminal behavior occurs. Each situation needs to be evaluated on its own facts. Please review our web page for further information on contacting our office for further assistance.Landlord tenant help – Koban law