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When is a property owner responsible for crimes on the premises?

On Behalf of The Foley Law Firm | May 26, 2021
When is a property owner responsible for crimes on the premises?

Perhaps you were coming out of your apartment and walking down to your car when someone mugged you in the parking lot. Maybe the basement bathrooms at a local nightclub had too many dark corners that led to a preventable sexual assault.

While such criminal acts are clearly the responsibility of the individuals breaking the law, there are times when a property owner or business manager is also responsible for that criminal activity.

If someone knows about criminal actions and either participates in them or fails to stop them, they may be an accessory to the crime. However, even in circumstances where the property owner or business manager had no connection to the criminals or forewarning of the event yet they still become liable for the damages that result.

Inadequate security can give rise to premises liability claims

Property owners who rent out their space to others and businesses that allow the public onto their property have some liability if people get hurt.

Many premises liability claims have to do with maintaining physically unsafe facilities. Someone who slips in a puddle caused by a leaky roof might sue the business where they got hurt, and the same is true of an apartment tenant who falls down unlighted stairs.

However, landlords are also sometimes responsible for criminal activity that occurs on their properties.

When is a crime the property owner's fault?

One of the most important standards that applies when determining whether someone has a valid premises liability claim is foreseeability. More specifically, attorneys may ask if it's reasonable to think that the individual or business could foresee the specific outcome.

Large amounts of foot traffic, high neighborhood crime rates, and facilities create a perfect opportunity for an unwitnessed crime to occur. Landlords can protect both residents and visitors by investing in security guards, cameras and adequate lighting.

Victims of crime who believe that proper security would have protected them may have grounds to bring a claim against the property owner.

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