If you rent in an apartment building, it is within your rights as a tenant to expect certain securities to be provided by your landlord. If you have been the victim of a physical assault or rape due to a landlord providing inadequate security, your landlord can be held responsible.
The Dangers of a Broken Lock
One evening Norma Burgos, the tenant in a privately owned building in Manhattan, lived through an unexpected nightmare. Two men entered the common area of her apartment building, gaining access through the broken locks on the front door. The men then attacked Burgos as she attempted to leave her apartment, beating her and robbing her in the process.
Burgos filed a civil lawsuit against her landlord in order to recover compensation for her physical injuries and the emotional trauma caused by the beating, alleging that the landlord was negligent because both the front and back door locks were broken and did not provide adequate security.
What Security Is The Landlord Responsible For?
The laws that landlords must abide by fall under premises liability law. Premises liability law holds property owners liable for accidents and injuries that occur on their property.
It is the landlord’s responsibility to provide a reasonably safe environment for their tenants. This means that steps must be taken to ensure the prevention of any foreseeable physical attacks.
In New York City, not only are doorknob and deadbolt locks required on any external door of a residence, but any landlord who owns a residence with multiple units must also install a chain-door guard on the entrance door of each unit. Peepholes must also be installed in the entrance door.
In addition to door locks, New York City landlords are required to install a window guard in any residence where a child under the age of 10 lives, or in any residence where the tenant requests the window guards be installed. Additional window guards must also be installed on the windows of all common areas.
It is the responsibility of the landlord to keep the locks and window guards in good repair. If a tenant has informed the landlord of a problem with a lock or window guard, the landlord should take every measure to have repairs or replacements made as quickly as possible.
If a landlord fails to maintain these requirements, they can be subject to fines from the state and may find themselves part of a civil lawsuit brought forth by a tenant who has been made a victim due to the landlord’s negligence.
Additional Safety Measures A Landlord Can Implement
Safety conscious landlords can also improve security in their units in various ways, although these measures are not required by law:
- Install security cameras with independent monitoring systems
- Install motion sensitive lighting
- Conduct background checks on any maintenance workers, independent contractors, or personnel who enter the apartment building or individual units within the building
- Conduct background checks on other tenants
Responsibility Of The Tenant: See Something, Say Something.
While landlords are required to check at regular intervals to ensure that implemented safety measures are still adequate and within the regulations of the law, the tenant is also responsible for alerting the landlord to any issues that could increase the risk for criminal activity.
The tenant is responsible for reporting any damaged or missing locks and window guards to the landlord. In New York City the tenant has the right to install locks on the door, in addition to the locks the landlord has provided, as long as the landlord is given a duplicate key. Tenants should also report any suspicious activity or persons on the property to the landlord.
Tenants might want to consider installing their own security systems, including cameras, motion detectors, and door alarms.
Common Crimes Committed In Apartment Buildings
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, 30.9% of all rapes take place in the perpetrators home, and 26.6% of all rapes take place in the victims home. While the total number of rapes in New York City has dropped significantly since the year 2000, additional safety measures in all apartment buildings would help that number fall even further. For more information click here.
Robbery is often confused with burglary, however, there is a key difference. In order for a crime to be called a robbery, a victim needs to be present while property is stolen. That victim must also be threatened, forced, or intimidated into giving up the property. A victim does not need to be present when a burglary takes place. Of course, when a victim is present when a property is being broken into, the changes of them sustaining a physical injury from an attack are quite high.
Unfortunately, many New Yorkers have been killed or seriously injured by criminals in robberies through shootings, stabbings, and beatings that could have been avoided if the apartment building had adequate security.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Victimized?
An experienced premises liability attorney can help you determine how to pursue legal action for injuries you sustained as a result of your landlord’s negligence. It is important that you keep any records available of when you notified the landlord of inadequate security (i.e. broken locks or windows). Your attorney will also investigate the history of the property to determine if there was a pattern of similar crimes committed at the residence or additional cases brought against the landlord.
If you, or a loved one, have been the victim of physical assault or rape due to negligent security, Banville Law’s dedicated premise liability lawyers will fight tirelessly to help you receive proper compensation. Contact our premises liability attorneys today for a free consultation at (917) 551-6690.