Can Landlords Go to Jail for Their Tenants' Criminal Activities?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Oct 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

Amazingly enough, the answer is sometimes yes. 

A few California criminal statutes make landlords liable for criminal activities that take place at the properties they are renting to someone else.

One of these is California's dogfighting law (Penal Code 597.5 PC). This law makes it a crime to let someone else use a space that you own or control to stage dog fights, or to raise dogs for dogfighting.

Another such law is Penal Code 337a PC, California's bookmaking/pool-selling/wagering law. This law also provides for criminal penalties for landlords who rent out their property to people who use the space to run bookmaking or pool-selling operations.

However, both of these laws provide that the landlord is only guilty if s/he knew the property was being used for illegal activity. This means the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the landlord knew what was going on.

Plus, California juries may be more reluctant to convict a landlord than to convict someone who personally committed the crime. (Also see our article, Am I liable if someone drowns in my pool in California?)

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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