Who is Responsible for Poor Security?

There are over 1.5 million rental units in New York City, making it the largest rental market in the country. Crime statistics for the City show over 6,500 burglaries in 2020, up from 4,480 as the year before. When can a landlord be held responsible for damages caused to tenants from criminal activity?

Landlords’ Legal Duties Toward Tenants

Generally, a landlord owes his tenants and guests a duty to maintain the property in a safe condition. In New York, this is known as a warranty of habitability and is enforced against all landlords, even if not specifically included in the lease. In fact, a lease which tries to invalidate or limit the warranty of habitability will be declared invalid in court.

The landlord’s responsibility to maintain rental properties in a habitable condition includes taking precautions against criminal activity which is reasonably predictable. Since burglaries are common occurrences in New York, it is reasonable to assume that at the very least, locks should be installed on outer doors and maintained in working condition. In fact, the City’s Housing Maintenance Code requires a deadbolt, chain guard, and a peephole on all entrance doors. If a landlord installs additional locks on individual apartment doors, he is also responsible for making sure the locks work and are properly installed.

The landlord also has a duty to maintain other security equipment, such as cameras, lights, or alarms, in proper working condition if he installed the equipment. Landlords are not required to hire security guards, but if they do, they may be responsible if the guards are not properly vetted prior to hiring or if their negligence or intentional acts allow a crime to occur.

Landlord’s Legal Liability

If a criminal is able to enter a building because of a broken lock or other malfunctioning security equipment, the landlord may be held responsible for damages caused by the criminal activity if he knew about the malfunction and failed to repair it within a reasonable time. It is important to notify your landlord of any broken security equipment as soon as possible. Additionally, do it in writing so you can prove that the notice was given. If you have suffered personal injury due to a break-in, you may be able to recover damages from your landlord or owner of the building. Call the law office of Mirman, Markovits & Landau, P.C. to learn more about your legal rights. We have been helping injured persons in New York City for over 40 years, and will be happy to arrange a free consultation. Visit https://mirmanlawyers.com/ or call us at 212- 227-4000.