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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Punishing the Innocent: No Fault-Eviction of Public Housing Tenants for the Actions of Third Parties

Chapter I of this report puts the current debate over no-fault evictions in context. It begins with a brief history of public housing and a statistical portrait of public housing tenants before focusing on the narrower issue of crime in public housing. The chapter concludes by describing the origins of the third-party-action eviction and revealing its statutory basis. Chapter II presents case law from jurisdictions where courts have upheld no-fault evictions from the actions of third parties. Chapter III examines public policy, legislative intent, and substantive due process consitiutional law arguments concerning no-fault evictions and concludes that these arguments condemn the continued use of a no-fault liability standard for third-party-action evictions. The conclusion presents alternatives to no-fault evictions that avoid harming the innocent, but which still further the policy intent of fighting crime. Specifically, the conclusion explores the option of an affirmative defense for tenants by examining court-created defenses, statutory defenses, and the analogous innocent owner defense in civil forfeiture law. The conclusion then proposes a fault-based standard based on a compilation of criteria used by different courts in third-party-action evictions. Because of procedural and evidentiary rules of affirmative defenses, the best alternative to strict liability in third-party-action evictions is a negligence standard that uses knowledge and foreseeability and the particular circumstances of the crime or disturbance to measure the personal accountability of the tenant.

--from the author's introduction.