Resident Not Liable for Actions of Her Guests
Facts: A resident’s sister and other guests engaged in a physical and verbal altercation with another resident of the site. The altercation was captured on video, and the police responded to the site. As a result, the owner sent the resident a notice to vacate based on the alleged breach of the lease, the Rules and Regulations, and the state’s landlord-tenant code. The resident didn’t vacate the unit, so the owner sued for possession of the unit.
The lease agreement required that “all tenants and other guests of the premises with the consent of tenant shall conduct themselves in a manner that does not unreasonably interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the other tenants.” The owner contended that the resident was responsible for the conduct of her guests, and specifically her sister, who engaged in a physical and verbal fight with another resident. That conduct was deemed by the owner to be disruptive to the health, safety, and rights of other tenants to peaceful enjoyment of their premises.
The resident argued that she had no control over her sister and other guests once they left her unit. She further contended the altercation was started by the other resident, and in fact, she took immediate corrective action upon becoming aware of the altercation outside and removed her sister from her building.
Ruling: A Delaware court ruled in favor of the resident.
Reasoning: The court found that the owner couldn’t satisfy the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence that the resident was personally in violation of the lease terms, including the rules and regulations for the site. There was no dispute that an altercation occurred at the site, that the altercation involved the resident’s sister and other guests, and that the altercation occurred outside of the resident’s unit.
But there wasn’t any evidence produced to prove that resident could have reasonably foreseen that there would be a verbal and physical altercation between the other resident and her guests. To the contrary, the other resident testified that she confronted the resident’s guests when she overheard a statement to which she took exception. Upon learning of the altercation outside her apartment building, the resident tried to intervene and calm the situation.
- Bethel Villas 2009 Assocs. LP v. Berry-Mills, February 2019