Am I liable for crime committed in one of my properties?

If you’re worried about a crime being committed in your property, you might be wondering if it’s your place to call the police or not and what might leave you liable. 

The short answer is usually, yes, you should call the police to let them know if you have any suspicions. However, things are, as always, a little more complicated than that, so it’s not always the right first step.

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We’ve looked at the crimes you are most likely to encounter as a landlord, but we’ve also looked at abuse that could be happening in your property. While these are all crimes, the approach you need to take is very different. 

Why do you think a crime is being committed?

While it can be tempting to want to find out more about what’s going on in your property, it can help to take a step back and think about why you believe someone is up to no good:

  • Have the neighbours reported unusual activity?
  • Have you heard there’s been a lot of noise and arguing?
  • Are there more people living in the flat than you had agreed to?
  • Have you noticed a different name on the rental payment than what is on the AST?

You should jot down a list of reasons, so that you can consider them in black and white. This may cement in your mind that something is definitely wrong, in which case, this is good to have to hand when you call the police. We recommend calling 101 to report, unless someone is in immediate danger, then you should call 999.

However, you shouldn’t immediately call the police if the crime you suspect is abuse or self-neglect. This feels incredibly counterintuitive, but in cases of abuse or mental illness this can do more harm than good, if the victim hasn’t asked for help. The exception is when children are involved or you believe someone to be in immediate physical danger.

Am I liable for my tenant’s criminal activity?

Landlord’s have multiple responsibilities, but you are not expected to police your tenants. You are expected to:

  • Meet your own legal obligations. This includes ensuring that you have all the correct certification: Gas Safety, EICR and EPC, as well as full working fire alarms on all floors
  • Conduct a Right to Rent check. You should always conduct a Right to Rent check before the tenancy starts and will need to re-check this if they have a time-limited right to rent  
  • Do your due diligence. We always recommend thoroughly referencing your tenants so that you know more about who is renting your property and that they are the right person to rent to
  • Take care of your property. Make sure that you are responding to tenant’s calls about emergencies or repairs. Home Emergency Insurance can make this a lot easier on you and your pocket!

If you have referenced your tenants, then you have done all you can to ensure that a great tenant and law-abiding citizen is in your property. If a crime occurs in your property that you were unaware of, you wouldn’t be liable for it. 

However, in 2019, Leonardo Viscomi became the first landlord prosecuted in the UK for continuing to accept rent from his tenants, knowing they were using the shop they were renting from him to sell illegal goods. While he took no part in the running of the illegal business, he was considered to have knowingly benefited from the illegal trade, when he should have reported it to the police.

So if you suspect there is a crime happening in your property, take the appropriate action, rather than turning a blind eye.

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