Landlords: Drug-Dealing Tenants Can Lead to Legal & Practical Issues

Published: 2023-11-15
Landlords: Drug-Dealing Tenants Can Lead to Legal & Practical Issues
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Law Drug abuse
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 927 words
8 min read


Landlords who rent their property to tenants that deal in drugs could encounter several practical and/or legal concerns. Various federal, state, city, or local laws could impose punitive fines on them. Those inured or bothered in any way as a result of the drug dealing within the property could sue the landlord on the grounds of a public nuisance or the community being subjected to danger (Staff, 2020). If it so happens that the landlord was aware of the drug dealing occurring in his property, and had not proceeded to report it, then criminal liability may be imposed on him by the law enforcement officers. In extreme scenarios, the landlord's rental property, as well as other assets, may be seized over the belief that the landlord is using his or her property to facilitate major drug dealing (21 U.S. Code § 881, 2015). On the practical front, property that is subject to investigation over drug dealing is bound to depreciate, thus struggle to attract or retain its tenants.

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To avoid such misgivings, the landlord ought to take caution and screen his tenants through the rental applications. Further, insertion of clauses in the tenancy agreements that grant the landlord the right to evict the tenant immediately should they deal in drugs within the property would help limit their liability.

What if the Car Belongs to a Relative?

The doctrine of constructive possession takes effect. It implies that, regardless of whether one was aware or not, he or she is to be held responsible for an illegal item found in their general vicinity, and not in their person. That is, he or she has actual control over the property, but not actual physical control. The law does not discriminate between persons who are in constructive possession and those in actual possession.

For instance, if a vehicle is packed over at a nearby park with no one in it, no one is in physical possession over it. However, any individual who has the key to the vehicle is deemed to have constructive possession over it, as they can take physical possession of the vehicle, as well as its contents at whatsoever time (Asset Forfeiture, 2017). This concept implies that the relative needs not to be close to the vehicle at the time of discovery for the criminal charges to hold water. Instead, since they hold the capacity to take physical possession over the vehicle when they want, the constructive possession charge shall stick.

What if the Passenger in Your Car has Drugs and Does not Claim Them?

In such situations, the additional complexity of where precisely the drugs were found in the car comes in. For instance, if the drugs were found at the back seat of the vehicle, probably next to a passenger, there would be reasonable cause to believe that the drugs could belong to the passenger. It is thus not automatic that the owner or diver of the vehicle gets charged with drug possession if other passengers were present in the vehicle at the time.

As such, the question to ask would be whether one was actually in possession of the drugs at the time the arrest was effected. In this case, the passenger in the vehicle was in actual possession of the drugs (Dillman, 2018). At the time of arrest, it does not matter whether or not he claimed them. He or she shall be charged with being in possession of illegal drugs, and the onus of proof is on him to establish that he probably did not come into its possession knowingly or voluntarily. However, merely failing to claim them does not absolve the passenger.

With regard to the driver, he or she may have to prove or confirm that he was not aware of the passenger's possession of the drugs. If it is deemed that he was aware, he too shall be held criminally liable as to being an accessory to the fact. Similarly, as with regard to landlords and their property, instances where the charge is extreme, the owner of the vehicle may lose his or her property to the state.

Do You Consider This Fair? Why or Why Not?

Drug possession cases are usually quite critical, and when handled inappropriately, innocent persons may end up being wrongfully incarcerated. It is, therefore, crucial to take the appropriate measures to ensure such matters are handled diligently. In this regard, under what circumstances would the driver of the vehicle be arrested and charged, while it is the passenger that was in possession of the drugs?

Scenarios such as when the driver had asked the passenger to carry the drugs on his behalf, and if the passenger was in deliberate possession of the drugs and the driver was aware without reporting the manner (Glasser, 2017). In such scenarios, it would be fair to apprehend the driver as well and charge him together with the passenger. However, if the driver were genuinely not aware of the passenger's possession of the drugs, it would be unfair to hold him criminally liable.


21 U.S. Code § 881 - Forfeitures. (2015). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from

Asset Forfeiture. (2017, March 29). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from, B. (2018, October 04). Criminal Acts and Activities: Landlord Liability FAQ. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from

Glasser, R. (2017, July 31). What Happens if the Police Find Drugs that Aren't Mine? Retrieved August 20, 2020, from

Staff, F. (2020, June 05). FAQ -- Landlord Responsibilities: Criminal Activities. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from

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Landlords: Drug-Dealing Tenants Can Lead to Legal & Practical Issues. (2023, Nov 15). Retrieved from

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