Does a Landlord Have a Duty to Protect Tenants Against Crime?
PROPERTY OWNERS MAY HAVE A DUTY TO PROTECT CERTAIN PEOPLE AGAINST FORESEEABLE CRIMINAL CONDUCT.
Generally speaking, property owners are not responsible for the acts of third parties (meaning people who are not under the property owner’s actual or legal control). However, the law recognizes an exception to this general rule where a “special relationship” exists.
Property owners may have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect against third-party criminal conduct when one of the following relationships exist:
1. Adult and child.
2. Private security company and patron/customer/client.
3. Landlord and tenant.
4. Business and customer.
5. Innkeeper and guest. (Note that “innkeeper” doesn’t necessarily apply only to hotel owners.)
WHAT PROTECTIVE DUTY DOES A LAND OWNER OWE WHERE A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP EXISTS?
Where one of the relationships listed above (or another legally recognized special relationship) exists, the land owner (or the possessor of the land) has a duty:
1. To behave in a reasonable manner with regard to securing the premises and protecting against foreseeable criminal actions.
2. To secure common areas against foreseeable threats and criminal actions.
3. To take reasonable actions to prevent or protect the premises (and people on the premises) against crimes.
4. To respond in a reasonable manner to criminal acts or the imminent threat of criminal acts.
The degree of the land owner’s duty is generally evaluated according to the foreseeability of the crime or wrongful act, and the land owner’s duty is evaluated according to a “sliding scale” test. Where the actions required to prevent or protect against the harm is expensive or burdensome, the harm must be highly foreseeable (or likely) in order for the land owner to be required to prevent it. However, as prevention becomes easier (or less expensive), a lower degree of foreseeability is generally required to trigger the landlord’s duty to act.
The land owner’s duty is different when a crime is actually taking place (or clearly about to occur). In such cases, the land owner has a duty to behave in a reasonable manner, and not to negligently increase the damage or harm (or risk) to the plaintiff. In some situations and some locations, the land owner may have further duties, imposed by law.
As always, if you suffer injuries or damage, always consult an attorney promptly for an evaluation of your legal rights. You may lose the right to make a claim, or have your damages reduced, if you delay.
Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence and premises liability claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against a property owner who permitted or failed to repair a dangerous condition, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.