Hypo Friday

Hypo Friday: To Tell or Not to Tell?

  On a sunny Sunday, Chris Brownstone and Brihanna were making their way toward a party when they got into an argument.  They turned back home and carried on the argument in their apartment for all of their neighbors to hear.  They had gotten into it before, but this time, they got violent.

  A neighbor heard Brihanna cry out, "I am friends with the monster that's under my bed" and called the police in fear for Brihanna's safety.  The police arrived at the apartment complex within minutes to break up the fight.  They arrested Brownstone and took him to jail.  Larry Landlord heard about the incident and was alarmed but did not yet move to evict Brownstone.

  One day later, Brihanna called her friend D. Rake to help her gather her items and move.  She was anxious but D. Rake reassured her, "Just hold on, we're going home."  Brihanna finished packing her belongings and moved out.

  Brihanna decided not to press charges against Brownstone and instead recorded a scathing song with rapper, Skittle to get her revenge.  Brownstone was released from jail.

  When Brownstone returned to his apartment, he began the process of finding a roommate to supplement the rent.  He finally found Smiley Skyrus and she submitted her paperwork to Larry Landlord for processing. 

  Larry Landlord processed Skyrus' credit and approved of her moving in with Brownstone.  Just when Larry Landlord called Skyrus to give her the good news, Skyrus asked him, "So, I sort of came in like a wrecking ball and met Brownstone on Craigslist...what do you know about him?"

Q) Does Larry Landlord have an obligation to tell Skyrus about Brownstone's violent altercation?

A) YES.  Larry Landlord has an obligation to tell Skyrus about the existence of a police report related to a roommate altercation.

  A landlord has a duty of care to protect his or her tenants from harm.  More specifically, a landlord is required to disclose "latent defects" or dangerous and defective conditions within the leased premises that would not be obvious to a tenant.  This duty to disclose extends from providing the obvious lead paint disclosure to providing information about a potentially violent person on the premises.

  In Hamida Madhani v. Glenn Cooper (2003) Cal. App. 4th, 412, the court held that a landlord has a duty of care to protect a tenant from foreseeable future assaults of a co-tenant.  Madhani had repeatedly complained to her landlord about being physically assaulted by her neighbor but the landlord failed to evict the neighbor.  As a result, Madhani sustained yet another harmful beating and sued her landlord for negligence.  The court held that it was reasonably foreseeable that the neighbor would assault Madhani again and that the landlord had a duty to protect Madhani. 

  Our hypothetical is a bit different than the Madhani matter because there isn't a string of violent altercations about which Larry Landlord knows.  Larry Landlord only knows that there was some sort of fight and that the police responded to that fight.  However, Skyrus' very general question regarding what Larry knows about Brownstone opens Larry up to liability should he fail to tell her about the existence of a police report.  Larry does not need to get into details, but he should at least tell Skyrus about the police report to insulate himself from liability should another altercation ensue.

  If you have questions about your disclosure requirements, contact the attorneys at The Rad Firm, APC for guidance at (310) 461-3766.