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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss if you can sue your landlord for negligent security. We will answer the following questions:

  • What are the elements of a negligent security lawsuit?
  • What damages can be awarded in a negligent security lawsuit?

Tenants that read their lease agreements understand that their landlord takes on a certain level of liability for basic things like making sure the living space is structurally sound, the appliances and utilities function correctly, and the tenant generally feels safe while inside the unit. But is the landlord liability for what happens to the tenant when he or she steps out of their unit? What about if the tenant is just outside the building? Or in the buildings parking lot? And what level of security does the landlord have to provide?

What are the elements of a negligent security lawsuit?

While it may not be explicitly stated in the lease agreement, landlords can be held liable if a tenant suffers property loss or physical injury while on the property premises. The landlord’s culpability in a given negligent security lawsuit hinges heavily on if the incident was reasonably foreseeable and the landlord did nothing to rectify the problem.

The plaintiff in a negligent security lawsuit must provide evidence that the landlord failed to take adequate measures to ensure the security and safety of the tenant and to prevent the claimed incident. Examples include failing to install proper lighting and security equipment in high risk areas such as parking lots and covered parking garages, failing to install keyed or electronic locks on access points to the building, or ignoring requests from tenants to improve known security issues.

In a negligent security lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the following three items:

  1. The plaintiff sustained actual harm, or stolen property, or both as a direct result of the defendant’s negligent security;
  2. The defendant knew or reasonably should have known of the security risk to the tenants; and
  3. The criminal actions of the third party were reasonably foreseeable and the landlord did nothing to rectify the situation.

Obviously, there is some wiggle room here for the landlord to argue her innocence. For example, if the landlord has a log that lists regular weekly maintenance checks on security equipment, lights, and locks, and she can show that the malfunction occurred between two checks and there was no notification from a tenant, she could make the argument that it would have been nearly impossible for her to prevent the incident. But, if the lock had been broken for a month, and the landlord was notified about the problem by one or more tenants, and she failed to correct the problem, the tenant would have a strong case for negligent security. For cases that don’t have an clear and evident paper trail, foreseeability will be the primary determining factor in the ruling.

What Damages Can Be Awarded In A Negligent Security Lawsuit?

If the police can apprehend the third party that perpetrated the criminal act, he or she will face prosection from the state and be on the hook for civil liability for the victim’s damages. However, the landlord is still liable if the above three items are found to be true. Under a negligent security lawsuit, the plaintiff can ask for compensation for property damages, medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost income resulting from the incident. Punitive damages may be awarded in certain cases where the landlord was extremely negligent, acted with reckless abandonment, or when the defendant is much wealthier than the plaintiff.

Landlords can purchase general liability insurance to soften the financial burden from a negligent security lawsuit, but these insurance policies can become expensive to maintain. Landlords should seek to maintain a safe and secure environment for their tenants by scheduling regular security maintenance, providing a simple portal for tenants to report security issues, and immediately fixing any malfunctions that arise.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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