Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Legal Liability of Landlords for Sexual Assault by One Tenant of Another

Should a landlord be partially responsible if one of its tenant commits a sexual assault of another tenant after the tenant-victim complains of harassment by the tenant-perpetrator? This was the question recently posed to the Ohio Supreme Court as discussed in this Forbes Magazine article (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericgoldman/2013/10/15/landlord-may-be-liable-when-a-tenants-facebook-harassment-leads-to-a-rape/).  The case involved a male tenant harassing a female tenant in another unit and then hacking her Facebook account and posting up sexual messages.  The tenant complained to the landlord about this conduct. The landlord did nothing to evict the harassing tenant who later raped the female co-occupant. The court decided in favor of allowing a jury to decide whether the landlord should bear some legal blame for negligence under these circumstances.  The reasoning was that the tenant provided enough notice of a potential propensity to commit the rape by the harassing co-tenant to at least have a jury decide the issue.

The laws in California on this issue are similar to Ohio.  In order for a landowner to be responsible for criminal acts on their property, they must have enough information that they could "reasonably anticipate" the criminal or wrongful conduct occurring.