Unwanted visitors can get you evicted

Rent it Right

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 3, 2011

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There's an important "but if" with double jeopardy: It does not prevent different "sovereigns" (such as state governments and the federal government) from each charging a defendant for the same misbehavior.

For instance, a person acquitted in state court of murder can still be tried in federal court for depriving the victim of his federal civil rights, even though both cases will be based on the same homicide.

Right off, you can see how double jeopardy isn't really going to help you. Although the city does qualify as "the government," the bible college is not a governmental entity at all. The power behind the infraction you received (the state court system) is a different sovereign than your college review board, though the punishments seem very similar.

You may not fare much better when it comes to your landlord's use of the incident as the basis for terminating your tenancy, though the outcome will depend heavily on your state's termination rules. Many states allow landlords to terminate when tenants commit illegal acts on the property, but state laws vary as to the kinds of acts that may justify a termination (and how much proof is needed).

In Arizona, for example, tenants may be terminated and must leave immediately if they commit specified crimes; in Illinois, the unlawful use or sale of a controlled substance will support a landlord's demand that the tenant leave within five days; and in Montana, merely being arrested for drug or gang-related activity can trigger a three-day notice to leave.

The question for you is whether your ordinance violation is one of the types of bad behavior in your state's "unconditional quit" statute; if it is, you may be hard pressed to legally fight the termination.

If your landlord is within his rights to use this incident as the basis for an unconditional quit notice, you might try gentle persuasion in place of legal argument. If this is your first serious run-in (with the police and the landlord), you might ask for a second chance.

Bring up the fact that the college has also had their way with you, and do your best to convince the landlord that you've learned your lesson. If you think you can pull it off, ask neighbors if they will support giving you another chance. And invite those neighbors to your next party.

Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of "Every Landlord's Legal Guide" and "Every Tenant's Legal Guide." She can be reached at janet@inman.com.

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