Criminalizing Property Rights: How Crime-Free Housing Ordinances Violate the Fifth Amendment
Crime-free housing ordinances allow municipalities to force private landlords to evict tenants who have committed crimes or allowed a guest who has committed a crime into their home, regardless of the tenant’s knowledge. These ordinances have proliferated throughout the country since the turn of the century and pose interesting questions about landlord and tenant rights under the Constitution. This Comment explores a new strategy for landlords and tenants attempting to confront these ordinances—challenging them under the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court has recognized two types of takings that are due just compensation under the Fifth Amendment: possessory and regulatory takings. This Comment argues that compulsory evictions, as mandated by crime-free housing ordinances, qualify as possessory and regulatory takings for tenants, but not for landlords. While the landlord’s property rights have only been circumscribed because he or she has to find a new tenant and has lost the revenue from the original tenant, the tenant loses all of his or her property rights in the tenant’s leasehold estate after eviction under a crime-free housing ordinance. Additionally, government actors may engage in physical invasions to effectuate the eviction and “total taking” of the property. The taking is for the public purpose of reducing and preventing crimes, and the tenant is owed just compensation under the Takings Clause. Compulsory evictions under crime-free housing ordinances are unconstitutional without just compensation under the Fifth Amendment.
Criminalizing Property Rights: How Crime-Free Housing Ordinances Violate the Fifth Amendment,
Emory L. J.
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.emory.edu/elj/vol70/iss6/4