How can I legally protect myself from the activities of a housemate? 1 Answers as of November 28, 2010

I rent a single family home and am the only one on the lease. Because it's a big house, I have allowed a "housemate" to move into the basement. She has her own bathroom, separate entrance, kitchen, etc. I am worried she may be engaging in some illegal activities and am concerned about us both getting into trouble if she gets caught. Is there any way I can protect myself from being liable for her actions? I have considered trying to establish the downstairs space as a separate apartment, i.e. only limited access to the rest of the house, 1/2 address on a separate mail box, that sort of thing. Any thoughts?

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Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
In Missouri, criminal liability for the acts of another is limited:

RSMo 562.041: Responsibility for the conduct of another.

1. A person is criminally responsible for the conduct of another when

(1) The statute defining the offense makes him so responsible; or

(2) Either before or during the commission of an offense with the purpose of promoting the commission of an offense, he aids or agrees to aid or attempts to aid such other person in planning, committing or attempting to commit the offense.

2. However, a person is not so responsible if:

(1) He is the victim of the offense committed or attempted;

(2) The offense is so defined that his conduct was necessarily incident to the commission or attempt to commit the offense. If his conduct constitutes a related but separate offense, he is criminally responsible for that offense but not for the conduct or offense committed or attempted by the other person;

(3) Before the commission of the offense he abandons his purpose and gives timely warning to law enforcement authorities or otherwise makes proper effort to prevent the commission of the offense.

In short, you generally can't be charged with a crime for failure to tattle when you simply suspect someone is doing something illegal.

Civil liability is another issue. For example, if someone gets hurt in the basement, they can probably sue the housemate, sue you, sue your insurance, and sue the actual homeowner and his/her insurance.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 11/28/2010
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