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I own a duplex in Georgia. The tenant in one side has notified me she believes that the tenant in the other side is dealing drugs based on the amount of foot and car traffic coming to the location. She said she has confronted them and asked them to stop standing in front of and blocking or parking on her parking pad. Previously the accusing tenant only notified me of her parking pad being used. I notified other tenant to stop that behaviour. Legally, what do I do now that the accusing tenant has stated she believes there is drug use or sales occurring?

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  • Ignore it entirely - because you do not know who they are and what information they have on you and the other tenant. It's easily deducible on their side to know "who called the cops" if that's what you was intending to do. In the event that it may cause you harm, it's likely a better option to not get involved. If they're really committing a crime such as drugs, they'll be found out sooner or later, otherwise they may choose a different path in life. Given the economic situation across the US, making any extra $$ is what's on everyone's mind. Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 15:47
  • You need to contact a lawyer on this. You may have a duty to protect the tenant from the one allegedly selling drugs.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 19:04
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    Which Georgia? The ex-USSR republic, or the US state?
    – Greendrake
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 21:43
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    @dollarbill ignoring it is a good way to lose possession of the property; see ohwilleke's answer.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 12:48
  • @Greendrake eastern European Georgia still exists today.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 17:23

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You are in a tough spot. The main risk is "civil forfeiture" of the duplex if you have sufficient knowledge that it is being used for purposes of drug dealing and take no action. See, e.g., a case from October 1, 2021 when a house was seized on this basis.

But the tenant has property rights under a lease that you can't abridge unless you can prove that there is a violation of the law. And, it isn't obvious if you know enough to trigger civil forfeiture exposure based merely on uncorroborated statements from another tenant that observe only conduct often associated with drug dealing and not deals themselves. Still, the knowledge you do have might trigger a duty to inquire if you want to escape civil forfeiture liability.

Under the statute, to defeat a civil forfeiture action (assuming it has been used for drug dealing), you must show:

(e)(1) A property interest shall not be subject to forfeiture under this Code section if the owner of such interest or interest holder establishes that the owner or interest holder:

(A) Is not legally accountable for the conduct giving rise to its forfeiture, did not consent to it, and did not know and could not reasonably have known of the conduct or that it was likely to occur;

(B) Had not acquired and did not stand to acquire substantial proceeds from the conduct giving rise to its forfeiture other than as an interest holder in an arm's length commercial transaction;

(C) With respect to conveyances for transportation only, did not hold the property jointly, in common, or in community with a person whose conduct gave rise to its forfeiture;

(D) Does not hold the property for the benefit of or as nominee for any person whose conduct gave rise to its forfeiture, and, if the owner or interest holder acquired the interest through any such person, the owner or interest holder acquired it as a bona fide purchaser for value without knowingly taking part in an illegal transaction; and

(E) Acquired the interest:

(i) Before the completion of the conduct giving rise to its forfeiture, and the person whose conduct gave rise to its forfeiture did not have the authority to convey the interest to a bona fide purchaser for value at the time of the conduct; or

(ii) After the completion of the conduct giving rise to its forfeiture:

(I) As a bona fide purchaser for value without knowingly taking part in an illegal transaction;

(II) Before the filing of a lien on it and before the effective date of a notice of pending forfeiture relating to it and without notice of its seizure for forfeiture under this article; and

(III) At the time the interest was acquired, was reasonably without cause to believe that the property was subject to forfeiture or likely to become subject to forfeiture under this article.

(2) A property interest shall not be subject to forfeiture under this Code section for a violation involving only one gram or less of a mixture containing cocaine or four ounces or less of marijuana unless said property was used to facilitate a transaction in or a purchase of or sale of a controlled substance or marijuana.

The language in bold is the most threatening part that effectively establishes a duty of inquiry and a duty to take action if your inquiry establishes that drug dealing is going on. If you can't establish that you were ignorant of wrongdoing, and reasonably so, under the circumstances of being told by one of your tenants that something is going on, you are at great risk of losing the duplex to civil forfeiture if the DA can prove that drug dealing is taking place by far less than a reasonable doubt standard.

You might want to hire a private investigator to look into the situation carefully, and to try to evict the allegedly drug dealing tenant if the private investigator corroborates the fellow tenant's claims.

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