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.  In fact, 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. Thus, landlords also usually have a duty to protect the neighborhood from the criminal acts of their tenants. These duties are usually contained in building codes, statutes, and ordinances.

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

There are several steps a landlord can take in order to reduce the likelihood that you will be found liable for the criminal acts of non-tenants. Best practice is to take steps that will reduce the likelihood that a crime is ever committed on the property. In addition, other steps include: 

  • Comply with or exceed any security laws in your area, meaning ensure there are deadbolt locks, proper lighting, and locks on windows.
  • Take the neighborhood into account. If a rental property is located in a dangerous neighborhood, additional security measures may be necessary to ensure safety.
  • Let tenants know about any crime problems in the neighborhood and inform them about what steps have been taken to ensure their safety.
  • Regularly inspect rental property for any security problems and fix them right away.
  • Deal with complaints about criminal activity immediately.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

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