Are Landlords Responsible for Nuisance Tenants?

Last Updated: September 7, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

Landlords are generally not responsible for a nuisance tenant. Tenants are directly responsible for their own conduct. A landlord only has liability if they’re aware that a tenant is a nuisance in a way the landlord has power to remedy.

What Is a Nuisance Tenant?

A tenant causes a nuisance when one of these factors has a substantial impact on rental property:

  • Encroachment. This is when the tenant physically intrudes on another property without permission. The most common encroachments are when plants grow across a property line.
  • Injury. This is when a tenant directly or indirectly damages another property. For example, it’s an injury to let a sink overflow and leak into a neighboring unit.
  • Interference with Quiet Enjoyment. This is when the tenant does something that interferes with the intended use of another property. For instance, it’s interference to play loud music late at night, or blow cigarette smoke onto a neighbor’s balcony.
  • Statutory Nuisance. This is when the tenant violates a housing regulation. Breaking an environmental protection law is a common statutory nuisance.

When Is a Landlord Responsible for a Nuisance Tenant?

Landlords often aren’t responsible for nuisance tenants. In general, the person creating a nuisance is directly liable to anyone harmed by the nuisance. That’s the end of the analysis in most cases. A landlord is only liable if the landlord is reasonably aware of the nuisance and empowered to remedy the nuisance.

Reasonable Awareness of a Nuisance

A landlord can only be liable for a nuisance with reasonable awareness of the problem.

Sometimes this is straightforward. If other tenants are complaining about a nuisance tenant, the landlord is aware because there’s direct notice about the issue.

Ignoring possible notice isn’t allowed. The law considers a landlord reasonably aware as long as there’s a reasonable opportunity for the landlord to realize there’s a problem on the property.

Power to Remedy a Nuisance

Without the power to remedy a nuisance, a landlord isn’t liable. For example, landlords aren’t liable for tenants who cause nuisance without breaking the lease.

In other words, power to remedy only extends to legally binding actions. Landlords don’t have a responsibility to negotiate tenant disputes or do anything to pressure a nuisance tenant who isn’t violating the law or the lease.

Consequences for Failure To Address a Nuisance Tenant

Depending on the nuisance created by a tenant, it can be anywhere from minor to serious when a landlord fails to address it. If a landlord doesn’t address a nuisance tenant after proper notice, the following remedies often are available: