Greetings, and thanks to Al and the rest of the team for having me back in the Faculty Lounge! I'll be picking up where I left off last fall, and posting mostly on issues involving third-party responsibility, with some special attention to issues of audience and bystander liability more specifically.
Last week, the New York Times ran an article, Evictions Soar in Hot Market; Renters Suffer, that at first glance appears to have little to do with third-party responsibility. The article sets out how a number of factors like wage stagnation, rising rental prices, and the growing appeal of city living have converged to drive up eviction rates in a number of urban centers. As a result, many renters are suffering the debilitating effects of eviction and facing the difficulties associated with trying to find housing in an extremely tight market.
I’d like to add one more layer to this analysis: the increase in municipal ordinances that provide for eviction as a third-party sanction. As I discuss in an article recently posted to SSRN (Home Rules, forthcoming from the Duke Law Journal), many municipalities have passed ordinances mandating that landlord-tenant leases must include terms providing for eviction when tenants’ family members, friends, or guests engage in illegal acts on, or sometimes even off, of the rented premises. Similarly, nuisance ordinances provide for eviction when police are called to a property more than a set number of times, even though third-parties are often the source of the nuisance. The most troubling application of these ordinances has been in the domestic violence context, where victims of domestic abuse have been evicted as a result of 911 calls for police assistance.
While the stated rationale behind these vicarious liability ordinances is crime reduction, it’s not difficult to imagine a link between these ordinances and the factors described in the article. I hope to talk a bit more about some of the connections between third-party responsibility structures and broader social currents in future posts.