Don’t Be an Ignoramus

apartment responsibility

Don’t Be an Ignoramus

Ignorantia juris non excusat. Derived from Roman Law, ‘ignorance of the law excuses not’ remains a widely held legal rule. In general, not knowing you’re breaking the law is not a good legal strategy for why you broke the law. Similarly, not knowing that you were responsible for a crime is an equally difficult case to win. When renting, it is the legal responsibility of the landlord to maintain a property with all state and city codes. This does not mean renters get to use the owner as fall guy for their crimes; this just means they can drag one into theirs.

Landlords have a responsibility to provide decent security for their residents. They also have a responsibility to protect the neighborhood from their own tenants. Aside from whatever legal troubles a criminal renter may face, a landlord is open to fines from local government and law enforcement as well as lawsuits from neighbors on account of public nuisance.

Avoid these issues by doing just a few simple things. Screening prospective renters is always of key importance. Setting clear rules in the tenant agreement allows easier removal of tenants. Any real estate professional should engage with their building and business.



In 2014, Michael Bucaro, an owner and landlord in Pittsburgh, was thrown in jail after a series of events involving the criminality of his renters. After evidence were presented of the residence being used for various crack-cocaine activities, Bucaro was ordered by a judge to remove the tenants, pay a $10,000 fine, and then board up the house. Regardless of what his efforts to comply were, to remove criminal tenants is costly and can be dangerous. Ten thousand dollars is a good chunk of liquid money to have available. A boarded up house for a landlord means a destroyed business, one no longer able to grow, heal or bring in income. This was Bucaro’s punishment for his renters’ acts. If that was not hard enough, what he went to jail for six months later was his failure to comply and carry out those three orders.

Bucaro is his own person with his own story and reasons. But his situation could easily befall a landlord in Long Beach just as much as it did one in Pittsburgh.

Smart management means attracting quality renters, setting clear rules and standards, and showing up to your building. If something bad happens, you want to be looking for the cops and not the other way around. If you are periodically present at your property, you can foster healthy relationships with your renters, and you can know for sure how your business is looking. You might as well have knowledge, because ignorance is not an excuse.

Stephen Gillikin

Stephen Gillikin is a writer, performer and renter living in LA county. When he's not outside enjoying the scenery of southern California, he likes spending time indoors with his cat, Cat.
Property owners, do you want more freedom and less stress?

Learn more about how we can help. Customized solutions for large portfolios!