Rent isn’t cheap, and in return for your monthly check, your landlord owes you certain things: A private living space that is habitable, certain security features, and a promise to not evict you without cause. Another thing they owe you is safety within the complex. Just as someone’s home might have a fence or security cameras around the whole property—not just the indoor living spaces—a property owner must offer you a guarantee against unreasonable danger, whether you’re in the parking lot or your living room. This means they must promptly remove hazards and take preventative measures against expected dangers. In some cases, that includes the expectation of criminal conduct.
Discounting for the moment that premises liability does not always reside strictly with the property owner, let us use them as a stand-in as we explore the facets of liability on business properties. When it comes to third-party crime, it may be difficult to see a property owner’s direct connection. After all, if the criminal is not someone they either hired or rented to, can they really be blamed? Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, the answer could be yes.
Expecting to live in a safe complex is rather like expecting to live in a safe neighborhood: You can choose a location that’s known for having a lower rate of criminality, but that doesn’t guarantee freedom from illegal behaviors. When evaluating a property owner’s duty to prevent crime, the law considers whether they can reasonably assume a property is “safe,” or whether they should expect a certain type of criminal activity, and therefore either warn or protect tenants against it.
In asking whether a property owner should presume a probability of (and risk from) illegal activity, the law considers:
In short, the court considers “proximity, recency, frequency, similarity, and publicity” to determine whether it’s reasonable to suggest a property owner should provide protection to any visitors.
As a tenant or visitor to an apartment complex, how much of a claim might you have if you’re injured by criminal activity while on the property where you’re renting? That depends, like all premises liability cases, on whether the property owner took steps to mitigate the potential harms. Using the five-part test above, if you can prove that a property owner could reasonably suspect criminal activity might occur, they should:
That means if a parking garage poster warns drivers that the owners are not liable for belongings and that a break-in may happen, you would have no recourse if you left your laptop in plain view and it was stolen. However, if there were no warnings despite a rash of garage break-ins, you could argue that the property owner left you vulnerable.
Additionally, you must be able to prove that you were not more than 50% responsible for the damages you suffered—in the above scenario, a defendant might push back that leaving your laptop in plain view in a parked car was careless. Further, if you had left your door unlocked or your window down (or both), they might claim you were not exercising proper care in keeping your belongings safe.
Our experienced premises liability attorneys have handled many complex cases involving tenants and property owners. Being the victim of a crime is terrifying, especially if the police aren’t able to catch the perpetrator. The good news is you could have recompense if you were on someone else’s property when you were targeted. Let us give your case the consideration it deserves.
Contact The Daspit Law Firm online or call (888) 568-7176 to speak to our experienced Dallas team.
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