Landlords’ Liability for Failure to Provide Adequate Security

When we are in our homes, whether we rent or own, we expect to feel safe and secure. Under New York law, landlords are obligated to ensure that their buildings are safe and secure and have a duty to take minimal security precautions against reasonably foreseeable criminal acts by third parties. Moreover, when a public entity (such as a housing authority) acts in a proprietary capacity as a landlord, it is held to owe the same duty as private landlords in providing security devices in a building.

The New York Court of Appeals has held that “the most rudimentary security” are locks for entrances. When a person is injured by a third party, the injured person has the burden of proving that the owner/landlord breached his or her duty by producing evidence that makes it more likely reasonable than not that the assailant was an intruder who gained access to the building through a negligently maintained entrance. The failure to provide minimal security precautions would only be the proximate cause of a person’s injuries if the assailant is an intruder as opposed to a tenant or guest of a tenant.

A landlord may have a duty to provide additional protection beyond the minimal security precautions if it is foreseeable to the landlord that enhanced security is required. This can be established by a history of assaults in the landlord’s building and/or criminal activity in the area of the building where the crime took place. Keep in mind there is no requirement that the prior criminal activity be at the exact location where the plaintiff was harmed or that it be of the same type of criminal conduct.

The attorneys of Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP have successfully obtained recoveries for the failure of landlords to provide adequate security and have been instrumental in litigating cases which have created these principles in New York Law. In Terrero v. New York City Housing Authority, 116 AD3d 570 (1st Dept 2014), Donald Brown, Jr., partner of Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP, represented a 16-year-old who was sexually assaulted by her former boyfriend. The former boyfriend gained access to the Housing Authority’s building because of a non-functioning lock. The Housing Authority argued that the landlord not be held liable since the victim knew her assailant and thus could not be considered an “intruder.” However, the Appellate Division agreed with Donald Brown, Jr.’s position that the term “intruder” includes persons who have no authority, permission or invitation to enter the premises at the time of the criminal act, regardless of whether the assailant had previously been an invitee of a tenant.

 

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of negligent security, contact the attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP for a free consultation.