Note
Code Dodgers: Landlord Use of LLCs and Housing Code Enforcement

Code Dodgers: Landlord Use of LLCs and Housing Code Enforcement

James Horner

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In depressed real estate markets across the United States, landlords are placing each of their properties in separate LLCs. Their aim in doing so is to avoid the full brunt of housing code enforcement by limiting their exposure to potential fines. The increasing prevalence of single‐property LLCs has significant, negative consequences for lowincome tenants. First, their buildings are less likely to be well maintained. Additionally, in certain circumstances, a single‐property LLC strategy enables landlords to use superior bargaining power to extract enormous profits from tenants in dilapidated properties. Then, when the property accumulates too many fines, landlords can simply walk away from the buildings. This, in turn, increases blight and reduces the affordable housing stock in a city. Current legal schemes—such as typical housing codes, criminal penalties, and consumer protections—do not adequately address this problem. Instead, this Note recommends that local governments pursue a policy of limited corporate veil piercing for landlords based on ERISA’s common control liability provisions. This scheme would prevent landlords from evading full liability for housing code violations.
 
J.D. Candidate, Yale Law School, expected 2019. I am deeply grateful to Jay Pottenger for his wisdom and tireless efforts in providing feedback on earlier drafts of this Note. I also thank the Yale Housing Clinic, the Hon. Jeffrey M. Winik, Housing Court of Massachusetts, and Vicki Been for their input and suggestions. Finally, I am indebted to the editors of the Yale Law & Policy Review—especially Stephanie Garlock, Allaya Lloyd, and Simon Zhen for their hard work and thoughtful comments.
Cite this article:

James Horner

, Note, 
Code Dodgers: Landlord Use of LLCs and Housing Code Enforcement
, 37 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 647 (2019).