[Part 2 of 4] Ways a landlord can limit responsibility for the criminal acts of others (that are not tenants)
There are steps that can be taken that will not only lessen the chances of a crime being committed on the rental property, but will also provide a benefit to the landlord in the form of a lessened chance of being held liable for crime being committed against their tenants.
Landlords should adhere to the following:
- Ensure that each one of their rental units meets or exceeds the safety laws for the area. For example, many jurisdictions require that all residential rental properties have a locking doorknob and a deadbolt.
- To limit potential liability, a landlord should ensure that all of these fixtures are in working order.
- Give careful consideration to the crime scene, the area surrounding the rental properties, and create and install security measures that are designed to counteract popular crimes in the neighborhood. For example, if there have been a series of home break-ins through windows, a landlord may wish to install alarms or bars on accessible windows of all of the rental units in order to lessen his potential liability.
- If there are any tenant complaints about potential safety problems, these should be handled immediately. If any problems that are brought to the landlord’s attention are not fixed, it could lead to increased liability on the part of the landlord.
- Regularly inspect the rental properties for any signs of potential crimes and fix any broken security measures that are in place. Even if some of these measures may seem to be overly expensive, keep in mind that any dollar spent now may save thousands of dollars in the future. Jury awards and litigation settlements for crimes such as assault and rape inside of a rental property can cost landlords hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, landlords should be very careful when choosing a property manager. The property manager is the person that will have the most interaction with the tenants and also has keys to most of the rental units. Landlords should perform background checks on all potential property managers and choose the one that is best suited for the job. If a property manager commits a crime against a tenant, the landlord will most likely be responsible for the acts of the property manager and can expect to be sued.