by: Patrick A. Randolph, Jr.
Professor of Law
UMKC School of Law
LANDLORD/TENANT; RESIDENTIAL; TENANT RULES; TENANT GUESTS: Police participation in private landlord's efforts to bar individuals from its housing complex does not constitute state action warranting application of due process principles. Williams v. Nagel, 643 N.E.2d 816 (Ill. 1994). Landlords of federally subsidized housing complex, pursuant to powers conferred in the leases, developed a list of persons who were not permitted on the premises, whether or not invited by tenants. Police not only participated in enforcing the policy against trespassers, they recommended to the landlord who to put on the list (alleged drug trafficers and others with criminal associations). Trespassers were prosecuted criminally. They sought an injunction to establish that they were denied due process. Held: No state action; therefore no due process rights. Police did not decide who was to be barred, nor did police coerce the private owner into barring particular individuals. A private owner of property may bar individuals from entry onto its property, thereby rendering their future presence on property trespass.
Comment: Obviously this case can be very helpful to landlords in the right circumstances. But landlords should also consider that if they can do something about undesirable tenant guests, it is only a short step to the conclusion that they have a duty to do something about them. This duty could run to other tenants or even to the public at large. See, for instance: Housing Authority of City and County of San Francisco v. Aguila, 18 Cal. Rptr. 2d 218 (Cal. App. 1993) (unpublished opinion). (Landlord may be liable for nuisance where landlord does not take reasonable steps to prevent vandalism, noise, and criminal activity in and around landlord's building, even when source of problem is not tenants.
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