Property Management and Illegal Drug use in a Rental Property
Illegal drug use in a rental property can cause significant problems for rental property owners and property managers. Owners and managers could be liable for the activity itself, and in some cases might even be liable for any harm that comes to other tenants or community members. Plus, the manufacturing of some drugs, like methamphetamine, often makes a property uninhabitable for future renters. At the very least, illegal drug use could decrease a property’s value while making it hard to find new tenants.
Though dealing with illegal drug use can be a difficult problem, there are many actions you can take if you think your tenants are engaging in illegal drug activity.
Know the warning signs
Professional property managers understand that it is never good to confront or accuse a tenant of something that is not supported by evidence. Even if there is evidence, property managers still need to tread carefully to avoid a wrongful accusation.
Always remember that some warning signs may turn out to be benign. However, here are some red flags to be aware of:
- Frequent traffic in and out of the unit
- Unusual odors
- High utility usage
- Cash payments
A property manager notices any of these signs it is still very important not to jump to conclusions before getting more information. Find ways to ask tenants about such signs without implying wrongdoing. Property managers need to keep the lines of communication open. Even if illegal drug use is not to blame for the above warning signs, it’s still a good idea to find out their cause.
Consult an attorney
Property managers or owners who aren’t sure of how to proceed in dealing with illegal drug use should hire a local attorney who specializes in property law. Eviction cases can be lost in court due to a use of improper procedures. Don’t risk making a mistake when it comes to evicting a tenant.
If evidence exists that point to illegal drug activity, begin documenting it as soon as possible. Save any utility records that show the unusual usage pattern, get detailed reports from neighbors or anyone else who has a concern about the tenant. Stay objective when talking to witnesses and keep them anonymous.
It can be beneficial for a property manager to have a neighbor write a letter that documents what has been observed. One copy should be mailed to the property manager or property owner while another should be sent to the narcotics department at the local police station. Such documentation will be necessary to support eviction.
Consult with local police
If you have well founded suspicions that a tenant’s activity is illegal, contact the local law enforcement agency. Property managers need to be aware that an arrest does not equal an automatic eviction. The tenant still has a right to occupy the property. They will need to be evicted through a separate court process.
Serve an eviction notice if there’s clear evidence
If a property manager or owner finds clear and supported evidence that illegal drug use is occurring on the property, they should begin the eviction process. Property managers such as Martin Feinberg are aware of different types of eviction notices depending on the circumstances and local laws. The process for drug-related evictions is typically faster than a traditional eviction.
No property manager or property owner should ever attempt to evict a tenant himself or herself. So called self-help evictions are against the law. Also, don’t expect the police to conduct an eviction A court order will always be needed to legally remove a tenant from a property.