Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Landlord Potential Liability for Tenant's Nuisance

Tetzlaff v. Camp, 04-1499 (Iowa June 2, 2006).

Pangborn owned land that Camp farmed under an informal agreement. Camp, proprietor of a hog operation, spread manure on his land and on the field he farmed with Pangborn's consent. The field was close to the Tetzlaff residence

Tetzlaff complained to Pangborn about Camp's practices but Pangborn then purchased more land adjacent to the Tetzlaff residence and had Camp apply manure to that field as well. Tetzlaff sued Pangborn and Camp under a nuisance theory, but the trial court granted summary judgment to Pangborn, concluding he did not substantially control the activities of his tenant.

Limiting its decision to whether Pangborn should have been granted summary judgment, the court made no finding on the nuisance action. The court held that although the general rule is that a landlord is not liable for the tenant's nuisance, under the Restatement (Second) of Torts sec. 837, a lessor can be held liable for a tenant's nuisance if the lessor would be liable had he conducted the activity himself and he consents to the activity or knows or should have known the nuisance would be carried on, and he knows or should know the activity is causing a nuisance.

The court concluded that under the peculiar circumstances of this particular case and this particular landlord, a sufficient factual issue was generated to prevent summary judgment in favor of the landlord.

The takehome from the case is clear. Landlords should not expect that they can be insulated from the consequences of the nuisances of their tenants, if they have any involvement in the nuisance causing activities at all.


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