Slumlordism as a Tort–A Dissenting View

The persistence of substandard housing in urban centers stands as a challenge to law. There is a pressing need to re-examine whether prevailing legal doctrines are adequate for dealing with the problem and to suggest new doctrines where the old are found wanting. To their great credit, Joseph L. Sax and Fred J. Hiestand in their article “Slumlordism as a Tort” face up to these tasks boldly and vigorously. They conclude that, under existing conditions, it is imprudent to rely on public authorities to enforce housing codes and it is unlikely that legislatures will place sufficient enforcement powers in private hands. Therefore they seek to locate an avenue by which the courts can put private parties in a position to serve as enforcement agencies. Their solution, as indicated by the title given the article, is to make slumlordism into tortious conduct vis-a-vis tenants.