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Are landlords liable for the drug activity of their tenants?

Being a landlord can be financially rewarding, but it also comes with many risks. You have to deal with the possibility of tenants who do not pay rent on time, units that need major repairs and contracts that require clearer clauses. You also face multiple liabilities, such as premises liability from a slip and fall on wet surfaces.

One liability you may have overlooked is the criminal acts of your tenants, including drug crimes. If the illegal behavior of one renter harms or disturbs another, you may also be legally responsible according to Florida law, even if you did not know the shady actions were occurring.


When drug activity injures, annoys or risks the safety of other tenants, those tenants can press charges against you and sue you for compensation, especially if you were aware of the crimes going on. Law enforcement may penalize you as well, with fines, charges and even seizure of property if the problem is bad enough. These legal actions will go on your record. All these consequences will lead to the following:

  • Lower reputation and property value
  • Deterrence of good renters
  • Decreased income due to court fees and loss of renters
  • Difficulty in other areas, such as your main employment if applicable

You need a qualified criminal defense attorney by your side to mitigate these negative effects.

Future prevention

You can decrease the odds of this situation happening again. Screen potential tenants very carefully while still adhering to antidiscrimination laws for criminal history. Remember that having quality renters is more important than immediate income (which may just end up going toward legal proceedings and penalties anyway). Include a clause on criminal activity and eviction in the rental agreement and have your lawyer review it. Act promptly to violations to protect yourself and other tenants. Warning signs include heavy traffic, noise, odors, frequent parties and complaints from neighboring residents. 

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