Liability for apartment complex break-ins?

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Latest post 10-05-2007 3:47 PM by DrDC. 8 replies.
  • 10-01-2007 12:50 PM

    • DrDC
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    Sad [:(] Liability for apartment complex break-ins?

    My apartment was burglarized during the daytime a couple of weeks ago while I was away for an hour. The burglars broke a bedroom window, climbed inside and made away with several hundred dollars. I found out from the police department a few days later that the apartment complex has had more than twenty similar break-ins in the last three months and the rental office has said nothing to the tenants. In fact, the complex sits in two police jurisdictions and only one police department has given me their statistics so far; so, there may be as many as forty break-ins in three months. The tenants are sitting ducks to similar types of break-ins due to not knowing they are occurring. The rental office simply has the broken windows replaced after a break-in. I want to know if I can pursue the landlord in small claims court for recovery of my damages (e.g., foreseeability, breach of duty, inadequate security, etc.?) or what other options I may have.
  • 10-01-2007 1:57 PM In reply to

    Feedback [*=*] Depends on state law . . .

    How can you live in a complex that has had so many break-ins and not know about the problem? No cop cars around taking reports? Nobody talks to each other.

    The extent of a landlord's liability for criminal activity depends on state law and the facts.
  • 10-01-2007 1:57 PM In reply to

    re: Liability for apartment complex break-ins?

    "... and the rental office has said nothing to the tenants."

    I doubt there is any law requiring them to give you notice; even if they did, I'm not sure what good it would do.

    "The tenants are sitting ducks to similar types of break-ins due to not knowing they are occurring."

    Not sure how you reach this conclusion.

    You're free to sue the landlord if you like, but I doubt a court would require it to provide a security force. You don't say whether there's a lighting issue or the like.

    It's best to always check into the crime stats before you move into a given neighborhood.
  • 10-01-2007 5:49 PM In reply to

    More [=+=] re: Liability for apartment complex break-ins?

    Unless the city-county housing-building codes require something at the complex in the way of lighting, for example, that the landlord isn't complying with, there's nothing here to address. Even if it does, the law only gives you certain remedies if the landlord isn't complying and you'd want to talk with a local real estate attorney about that.

    http://ali.state.al.us/legislation/landlord_tenant.pdf
  • 10-01-2007 7:02 PM In reply to

    • DrDC
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    Feedback [*=*] re: Depends on state law . . .

    “How can you live in a complex that has had so many break-ins and not know about the problem? No cop cars around taking reports? Nobody talks to each other.”

    The complex is reasonably large (about 2 miles around) and I have only lived here 3 months. None of my neighbors knew of the break-ins, including my own break-in until I told them about it that evening by a note on their doors.

    I had to go to the rental office 6 times over the course of two days to request that they fix my window and check my door lock and each time I went to the rental office the assistant manager would quickly take me into her office and ask me to close the door behind me. The burglars break out your window at the latch, raise the window and climb through in the daytime while people are mostly at work. Apparently, it doesn’t make a lot of noise and happens pretty quickly.

    Also, a week after the break-in I was walking through the apartment complex early in the morning (about 5:30 am) for exercise when a police officer drove up to me and informed me that someone dressed in all black had just tried to steal a car within the complex. Several police cars quietly drove through the complex that morning then left. Again, no one except the victim and me really knew of this incident either.
  • 10-01-2007 8:06 PM In reply to

    • DrDC
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    Feedback [*=*] re: Liability for apartment complex break-ins?

    “I doubt there is any law requiring them to give you notice; even if they did, I'm not sure what good it would do.”

    After the break-in I went to a hardware store and purchased supplies to prevent my window from being raised from the outside (although, it also now requires much more work to open from inside as well). I would have done this before a break-in had I known of the high number and manner of previous, recent break-ins.

    “Not sure how you reach this conclusion (i.e., "The tenants are sitting ducks to similar types of break-ins due to not knowing they are occurring.").”

    Please see above statement. Also, I believe the burglars keep coming back because they have found a break-in method that works on the unsuspecting tenants. Each time the break-in works the same way because the tenant doesn’t know to prepare. A simple note on all of our doors could have given us a chance to react proactively and the burglars wouldn’t have found it so easy to keep coming back.

    “You're free to sue the landlord if you like, but I doubt a court would require it to provide a security force. You don't say whether there's a lighting issue or the like.”

    The burglaries are happening in the daytime through a bedroom or kitchen window. The windows all have a part of the latch attached to the glass and the burglars simply break the glass so that part of the latch falls out. Then they raise the window and climb inside. I’ve read that landlords can be assigned some liability when they have knowledge about a high amount of recurrent similar criminal activity that their tenants don’t have and fail to do anything about it. Unfortunately, all of the cases I’ve found on the Internet have involved more than just a burglary, but an assault as well. Maybe a negligent security case is possible due to the landlord’s knowledge that the window latch was not preventing the unusually high number of break-ins (the landlord replaces the windows after the break-ins).

    “It's best to always check into the crime stats before you move into a given neighborhood.”
    The two police departments that cover the complex didn’t want to readily reveal the criminal stats to me until I indicated that I was a recent victim within that apartment complex with a case number. I’m still waiting for the second police department to supply their numbers, but as I mentioned, the smaller police department listed 20 burglaries for the front portion of the apartment complex which is in their jurisdiction.

    Thanks for reading and the advice.
  • 10-01-2007 8:07 PM In reply to

    • DrDC
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    Feedback [*=*] re: Depends on state law . . .

    Thanks for reading and the advice. I meant to put that in the original response.
  • 10-04-2007 5:44 PM In reply to

    • GY1510
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    Warning [=*#] re: Liability for apartment complex break-ins?

    There is probably more to this story. There is a reason why this property or area is being targeted. Whether it be poor lighting, easy access and eggress, etc..
    However the landlord does have a obligatrion to provide reasonable levels of security and protection to the tenants or face considerable liability for damages. There is plenty of case law to substantiate this no matter what state you are in and landlords are increasingly being sued over issues like this. The results are staggering when the landlord looses especially when you consider that any action they could have taken before hand would have cost ten times less than the settlement they face and they still have to remedy the conditions.
  • 10-05-2007 3:47 PM In reply to

    • DrDC
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    Agree [=|=] re: Liability for apartment complex break-ins?

    …However the landlord does have a obligatrion to provide reasonable levels of security and protection to the tenants or face considerable liability for damages. There is plenty of case law to substantiate this no matter what state you are in and landlords are increasingly being sued over issues like this….

    Hi, GY1510. That’s my thinking as well. However, I’ve only found cases on the Internet that involve a physical assault or some type of physical injury. I haven’t found any cases where the person simply sued for the loss of property. If you or anyone else have case citations that don’t involve injury/assault please let me know.

    I’m thinking that maybe given the high number of burglaries within this one complex that the courts may consider this an exceptional case. This complex is actually in a good part of town (or so I thought having moved here from another state this summer). Although, someone subsequently told me that it’s actually located right at the “edge” of the good part of town. I’m still waiting on the second set of police statistics from the second police department with jurisdiction over the back half of the complex (where I live); but as I mentioned previously, the police department that covers the front half gave me stats over a week ago showing 20 burglaries since June. One of the burglaries occurred a week after my place was burglarized. The detective handling my case said the burglars are doing each apartment in the same way- breaking the window at the latch and climbing through (in the daytime).

    It’s hard to get an attorney to advise me because they say there’s not enough money involved (the thieves took $500 cash and some minor stuff), so I’m on my own. I’m thinking small claims court if I decide I have a solid legal basis to stand on. I want to do something soon and maybe get the word out to the rest of the apartment complex residents. I may have to contact a local news station to get the word out. But you would think that knowing the window latch is so inadequate against the current rash of burglaries would serve as grounds for landlord foreseeability of the inadequacy of the basic security the complex provides.
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