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Landlord can’t be sued for one tenant’s harassment of another

Even if a black tenant’s family was subjected to racist comments and verbal abuse by a white tenant’s family, the black tenant can’t sue the landlord, says the Ohio Supreme Court. The black tenant claimed she kept an extensive record of the harassment and reported each incident in writing to the landlord. However, the landlord (a public housing authority) allegedly didn’t do anything. An Ohio law prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants because of race. However, the landlord in this case didn’t itself harass the black tenant, the court observed. And the law doesn’t say that a landlord has to prevent other people from mistreating a tenant.

Despite this court’s ruling, this is a very difficult area for landlords. Landlords in many states may have a legal duty to protect their tenants’ safety and peace of mind – not to mention a moral obligation and a strong business interest in preventing this sort of misbehavior. On the other hand, it can sometimes be difficult for landlords to be sure of the facts when different sides tell different stories. We will be happy to assist you if you are facing a difficult situation with a tenant conflict.

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