Is the Landlord Responsible for Gang Violence?

The California Supreme Court has granted protection for civil liability (if not the flying bullets) to landlords with its decision in Castaneda v. Olsher.  The court ruled that a mobilehome park landlord had no specific duty to avoid renting spaces to gang members or to evict gang members who were renters.  As the court noted, California law allows park owners only two reasons to refuse rental of a space on which the mobilehome is installed:  inability to pay rent or past history of violating park rules.  Imposing a new duty to avoid rentals to gang members would, in the view of the Supreme Court, require landlords to risk civil liability for basing decisions on ethnicity, clothing, or presence of teenage children.

 

The court also ruled that the plaintiff had not established enough facts to impose liability for failure to have more street lights or an on-site security guard.  In dissent, Justice Kennard argues that this portion of the court’s decision confuses duty with breach.  In her view, the question was whether the landlord failed to act reasonably (by failing to install more lighting or to hire a security patrol), and that is a question that should be decided by the jury.

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