It’s a phone call no property owner wants to receive. Your tenant’s door locks did not keep a perpetrator out. The tenant has been assaulted in his or her apartment – in one of your buildings.
The victim has survived a robbery along with a physical assault and the perpetrator has been caught. Now the legal teams are not only looking at the perp, but they’re assessing the potential for a premise liability claim. It was bad enough that the assault occurred, but the ramifications could extend to building owners as well.
Premise liability claims typically include things like slip-and-fall cases or accidents due to snow or ice. There are the premise swimming pool claims and accidents from unmaintained rugs or stairs. But security, including providing adequate locks and safety in common areas, also falls under this umbrella. If a property is located in an area where crime is prevalent, property owners must ensure extra security measures. Yet, even in areas where crime is not prevalent, secure locks and keys are essential. If a forced-entry assault occurs, the building’s security could become a focus in court.
- Review your building’s locks — How old are they? Are they all working well? Which are in disrepair and in need of replacing?
- What sort of lock upgrades can be made to reduce the risk of a break-in? Consider not only each apartment’s private entrance but the building’s main entrance, fire escape exits, and back doors.
- How secure are the doorjambs for each apartment?
- Is there a history of crime? Have tenants reported complaints for better security? If so (and it hasn’t been addressed) then that indicates landlord negligence. Is there an established community association too?
- Make a record of upgrades and dates of responses to complaints.
When routinely assessing your building’s safety, take some time to take stock of the locks. You may be surprised what you find.