top of page

Is the Landlord Responsible for Tenant Illegal Acts?

Old shack in the woods
Rental House

Today I received a question from a reader. It’s a good question too. It’s about what the landlord can be held responsible for if their tenant does illegal acts. The short answer is no you can’t be held responsible for the actions of your tenants. I have read that certain states are penalizing landlord who own crack houses for example. I’m not sure why any landlord would want to own such a property, renting to drug addicts is not a lucrative activity, with the problems and damages and police.

The question is about the possible liability of the landlord in regards to child pornography.

Hi Rachelle,
I had a quick question about lease addendum. I was talking to another landlord who had an addendum to his lease that basically stated that no illegal acts were to occur in the property being rented. He said something to the extent of – if a tenant was hosting child pornography materials on a computer in the property that you were renting, that the landlord could be charged. I didn’t think that would be the case but wasn’t sure who the best person to ask would be?

QD you are correct about the specific question. The police would not hold you responsible for child pornography simply because they will look on the computers in the house if the house and internet were shared to find out who the perpetrator was. The would probably seize all the computers at the IP address and getting your computer back might take a long time.

I’m not sure where you are so it makes answering your question difficult. In Ontario you can, if you have sufficient proof, evict a tenant for illegal acts as well. There are two forms one for impaired safety (N-7) and another for illegal acts (N-6). You need to check your local equivalent to the Landlord & Tenant Board. I’m guessing that most areas will have similar ways of getting rid of tenants who break the law. You wouldn’t need an additional addendum to your lease.

Landlords can be held responsible for utilities

There are certain things that you can be held responsible for as a landlord that you should be aware of. There has been a disturbing trend by utility companies to hold the landlord responsible for the utility bills. A case in point in my area is the water bill. They have made it almost impossible for landlords to even put it in the tenants name and there is a $30 extra charge per bill to send the bill in the name of someone else other than the person on the property tax bill. Then if the tenant doesn’t pay it it transfers to the tax bill.

Electricity Responsibility in Marijuana Grow Ops

The other case is if there is a marijuana growing operation in your house and the tenants fool with the electricity you may be held responsible for the excess electricity consumed by the theft as well as renovating your destroyed property. I’ve never had this happen to any property I manage or rented so I’m a bit fuzzy on the details.

Another thing landlords need to be made aware of in regards to utilities is that unless the bills are in the tenants’ names, you must go to Small Claims to collect the monies owing. The Landlord & Tenant Board doesn’t deal with unpaid utilities unless it is included in the rent. In a house with two tenants such as a bungalow if there is a split to the utilities, each tenant should receive their own bill. One pays electricity and the other pays gas for example. Then if there is a percentage difference every few months everyone gets together and the remaining funds are split.

Utilities Transfer before Handing over the Keys

The landlord should verify that the utilities are being transferred before handing over the keys! I have heard of a poor lady who didn’t do this and got stuck with a tenant who didn’t transfer the utilities over into their name and ended up having to pay them after the tenant stopped paying the rent! So no keys unless the utilities are transferred.

The landlord is usually held responsible for damages caused by the tenant as well. Even if they are not legally responsible the landlord ends up paying. Small Claims is the place where landlords can go to sue their tenant for damages etc. Collecting can be difficult but it is possible.

Email me to get a FREE Unit Inspection Form

I recommend that landlords fill out a unit inspection report signed by the tenant and take photos before and after the tenancy. I also like giving out those stick on hooks to hang pictures. They aren’t expensive and prevent tons of nail holes for picture hanging. If you have reasonable people they will use them.

So there you have it! If anyone wants a free unit inspection report email me and I will send you one.

Don’t forget to sign up for free emailed landlord articles by me or get RSS delivery of everything I write! That way you won’t miss anything!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page