Landlord Liability for Criminal Acts of Strangers and Non-Tenants

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Can a Landlord Be Held Responsible for the Criminal Acts of a Stranger?

It is possible for a landlord to be held financially responsible for the criminal acts of a complete stranger.  This is especially true if there is a history of assault or other crimes on the landlord's property.  Lawsuits against landlords and rental property owners for the acts of criminals are becoming more and more common.

How Can a Landlord be Held Responsible for the Criminal Acts of Strangers?

Most states have laws that impose some duty on landlords to protect their tenants from the criminal acts of outsiders.  Landlords also usually have a duty to protect the neighborhood from the criminal acts of their tenants, most often drug dealing crime.  These duties are usually contained in building codes, statutes, and ordinances.

What Can I Do as a Landlord to Limit My Liability for Criminal Acts of Strangers?

There are several steps you can take in order to reduce the likelihood that you will be found liable for the criminal acts of non-tenants.  The best thing you can do is to take steps that will reduce the likelihood that a crime is committed on the property.  In addition, here are some other tips: 

How Do the Costs of Implementing Security Measures Stack Up against Going to Trail?

While it may seem that the costs of implementing security measures and going beyond what local laws require are high, those costs will be low compared to the costs of going to trial.  It can costs hundreds of thousands of dollar to settle a case where a tenant is raped or assaulted and an average jury award (should your case go to trial) is around $1 million.

I'm Concerned About the Security of My Rental Property, Do I Need a Lawyer?

Because your duties as a landlord are often found in court decisions and other hard to find places, a lawyer experienced in real estate law can advise you of what steps you should take to ensure the safety of your tenants.  An experienced real estate lawyer can represent you in court, if necessary.

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Last Modified: 07-07-2011 02:57 PM PDT

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