Tenant safety should be at the top of your landlord’s priorities. Apartment renters are at a much higher risk of home intrusion then single-family home owners. When crime occurs in an apartment, is the landlord responsible?
Unless a landlord has taken reasonable steps to protect tenants, the answer is yes. This is especially true when the landlord knows or should know that the apartment is in a high crime area or a similar crime has occurred at the complex before. This may also be true where the landlord has rented an apartment to someone with a serious criminal history or someone who is dealing drugs at the apartment. Failing to act in either situation endangers tenant safety.
Landlords should be analyzing this data on a regular basis for the area of their property. Additionally, most police departments are only too happy to meet with landlords and provide information about known problems and helpful prevention tips to enhance tenant safety. Knowledge of the area is important to determine the type of security necessary to keep tenants safe.
Rather than turn a blind eye, landlords should take tenant safety seriously. A landlord can be aware of the crime in the neighborhood and take steps to prevent additional crime. For instance, if there has been an increase in neighborhood crime and the criminal is entering through windows, then the landlord should make sure apartment windows are secure. Gates, keypads, additional keyed locks can all help reduce the amount of crime that enters the complex.
Screening tenants themselves for safety is also a good idea. In Oklahoma, a few minutes on OSCN and ODCR or will show whether an individual has been charged with a crime. A more thorough background screening may be helpful especially if the individual has moved between states. Even after the tenant has moved in, making sure that they are not engaged in criminal activity on premises is an important safety precaution for other tenants. Landlords can include a clause for eviction based on drug use in the apartment. Being aware of what is going on in the complex is part of the landlord’s responsibility.
Basic security features are necessary by law. Each apartment should have an adequate lock. Changing the locks after each tenant moves out and maintaining key security is very important. Peepholes are helpful to tenants so they can determine whether to open the door. Lighting of common areas needs to be sufficient to allow safe travel through the area and this also helps deter crime.
Being responsive to tenants’ safety concerns is also very important. If a tenant has informed the landlord that a security light has burned out, the landlord should fix that problem right away. The same goes with complaints about other safety features such as window and door locks and hallway and walkway lighting. A prior complaint about a problem that is not fixed can increase the liability of the landlord when that problem results in an injury due to crime.
Serious crimes can occur at apartment complexes. This is one of those areas where both the criminal and civil justice system can provide remedies. The criminal justice system can prosecute the individuals who commit crime. But it does not address the situation of people who have tolerated an environment that fosters crime.
For those victims or their families who have experienced rape, murder, or serious assault, a consultation with a civil lawyer will provide information about your legal rights and remedies. Landlords who have ignored security concerns and failed to take appropriate action can and should be held liable to the victims of crime committed by others. Negligence in providing appropriate security is a basis for a civil lawsuit. Lawyers will refer to these as “negligent security” or “premises liability” cases. Whatever the lingo, the bottom line is that victims of crime that occur in apartment complexes may have important civil remedies. To investigate your rights, contact Koller Trial Law.