If you host a party at your house or apartment, you may be legally accountable for what happens during and after the event and ultimately you have the personal and/or organizational responsibility to create a safe and healthy social environment for your guests. High risk drinking drinking, illegal drug use, fights, sexual assault and property damage are just a few of the issues that you may responsible for as a host.
Some common scenarios that might get a host in trouble with their landlord, neighbors, police, or fire marshals include:
- Intoxicated guests causing problems
- Charging a cover or selling cups for alcohol
- Having <21 guests drinking at the party
- Loud and unreasonable noise
- Crowds too large for the property so guests spill into yard or street
- Trash gets thrown all over yard or streets
- Cars parked illegally
Here are some things you can do before a party to reduce risk and be a responsible host:
- Familiarize yourself with North Carolina law and local ordinances, The Instrument/Honor Code, and your lease agreement to make sure you are on the right side of the law and your responsibilities as a student and tenant.
- Contact your neighbors in advance to let them know you’ll be having guests over and ask if there is anything you can do as a host to make it easier for them. Give them your phone # so they can call you if problems arise. Remember- informing your neighbors does not give you license to be a nuisance.
- Consider whether you want to allow alcohol at your party at all. Planning an event without alcohol reduces many of the potential problems of house parties. If you do decide to allow your guests to bring alcohol, consider limits. A 6-pack of beer or a bottle of wine is recommended.
- Make a guest list and stick to it.
- Make a party plan, including who will monitor the event (sober), how access/egress will be managed to insure a safe and secure event, what time the vent will begin and end, what non-alcoholic beverages will be available in addition to food, and how guests will get home safely.
- If you are a member of a fraternity or sorority, make sure your event is in compliance with any and all applicable policies; any event that you host has the potential to be construed as a chapter event.
- Read your renter's insurance policy (you do have renter's insurance, right?) to understand any applicable stipulations in the coverage.
- Protect your stuff; lock rooms you don't want guests to have access to; put away valuables, restrict access to candles, fireworks and other flammable materials
During the party:
- Have at least two people there who are not drinking and designate a sober, responsible person to address concerns that arise, confront high risk behavior, and speak with the police should they come to your event. If the police do come, stay calm, be polite and cooperative, and step outside to discus the situation. If you are willing to shut the event down, they are likely to only give you a warning. If they have to come back, you are likely facing an expensive citation.
- Use your guest list and make sure the house isn't getting overcrowded.
- Limit alcohol consumption (avoid kegs, “pj”, and other common source containers), and serve non-alcoholic beverages to supplement any alcohol that your guests may bring. Additionally, provide food and use cans or clear plastic cups rather than glass bottles.
- Never promote or sponsor a function where you or housemates may be interpreted as selling alcohol by selling drink tickets, selling empty cups, charging for “all you can drink,” or hosting an event in conjunction with a local bar or alcohol distributor. Always go BYOB.
- Do periodic sweeps around the house to make sure folks are having fun, and clean up any trash issues in the house or yard. Doing a little bit at a time will save you a big headache later on.
- Do not permit illegal drug use.
- Keep people off balcony's or porches that are not equipped to handle large numbers of people.
- Be aware of guests that may have had too much to drink and get help immediately for those that have. Know the signs of alcohol poisoning and call 911. Good Samaritan and Medical Amnesty laws will keep you out of trouble if you are focused on getting help for a friend.
- Be aware of the potential for sexual assault to take place. People who are incapacitated as a result of their alcohol consumption cannot consent to sexual activity. Your best bet as a host is to close off bedrooms or other places where sexual encounters are likely to occur. If you see a situation that looks questionable, say something/do something to prevent someone from committing or being a victim of sexual assault.
- Monitor how people are getting home. Remember Social Host Liability: you are liable for the actions of people who leave your party intoxicated. Take care of your guests!
- Ask your guests to respect your neighborhood as they leave…no yelling, vandalism, open containers, littering, etc. Clean up any mess your event creates – both inside and outside of your house. Take a moment to make sure your neighbors’ property was unaffected by your party.
After the party:
- Don't let guests leave with an open container of alcohol in their hand.
- Make sure everyone gets home safe; don't let folks wander off alone.
- Clean up- your house and the surrounding area outside.
Thanks to the University of Central Missouri and the University of Colorado at Boulder for some of the great resources and tips found here.