Landlord Exposure for Tenant Conduct

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Any landlord will occasionally wonder whether it can be legally responsible for a tenant’s conduct or conditions on the leased premises. As with most legal questions, the answer is that it depends. From nuisance conditions that impede the ability of others to enjoy life or property, to dangerous conditions that injure a tenant’s visitor, much hinges on: (1) what the landlord knows, and (2) when they knew it. This article discusses two recent Indiana Court of Appeals decisions that offer guidance on the subject.

Conditions with Adverse Impact Away From the Leased Premises – Nuisance

You may already be familiar with the nuisance concept, but a brief overview will aid this discussion. Indiana Code § 32-30-6-6 defines nuisance as “whatever is: (1) injurious to health; (2) indecent; (3) offensive to the senses; or (4) an obstruction to the free use of property; so as to essentially interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.” Classic examples include environmental contamination, industrial or agricultural applications that create offensive odors, or morally offensive business enterprises. The lay of the land must be considered in evaluating a nuisance claim. For example, one probably has a nuisance claim if a residential neighbor builds a backyard chicken coup, but one who builds a rural residence near a properly zoned hog farm almost certainly does not.

Landlords are generally not liable for a tenant’s nuisance, except in the event that the landlord: (1) leases property to the tenant for the purpose of opening a business that is a nuisance by its character, or (2) knows of and can stop the tenant’s nuisance, but does not.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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