Under Texas Law, an apartment complex can be held liable for crimes that occur on their property, but only under very specific circumstances.
Everyone should feel safe and secure in their home. However, this is not always the case for people living in apartment complexed. In some cases, apartment complexes have become a hotbed for criminal activity, which can often lead to severe injuries or even death.
If you or your loved one has been a victim of an intentional tort such as a battery, assault, or another crime resulting in injury while living in an apartment complex, then you might have a potential claim against your apartment complex.
The general rule states that a landlord or owner of an apartment complex does not ordinarily have a duty to protect their tenants against crimes or intentional torts that occur on their property.
The exception to the general rule is where the criminal act was foreseeable by the apartment complex and they failed to protect residents from that known danger.
Foreseeability basically means that some clues or factors are present such that a reasonably prudent person would be able to anticipate that a crime is likely to occur. What this means--practically speaking--is that the employees of the apartment complex are not required to see the future or lock the complex down like Fort Knox, but they are required to keep an eye out and take reasonable steps to protect residents.
Let's consider an example.
Imagine that Bob, an apartment manager, took a walk around his property on January 1st. While on his walk, he noticed that one of the residents was selling drugs out of their apartment unit. Bob decides that he doesn't want to go through the hassle of dealing with evicting the drug dealing resident, so he just looks the other way and acts like nothing happened. On February 1st, a rival drug dealer got into a shootout with the drug-dealing resident, when a stray bullet hit and killed a child who was playing on his patio.
Under this hypothetical scenario, would the apartment complex bear liability? Almost certainly, yes. Knowing that a drug dealer is operating on the premises is a huge red flag that would alert a reasonably prudent apartment manager that a dangerous crime is likely to occur. Since the danger was foreseeable, the apartment manager had a duty to take reasonable steps to protect residents from that harm.
Simply put, had the apartment manager reacted appropriately to the discovery of the drug-dealing resident, the resulting shootout would never have occurred. His failure to react is essentially the basis by which the apartment complex will be liable.
Now, if the apartment manager had never known that someone was selling drugs on the premises despite his diligent efforts to keep a lookout for such problems, then the danger would not have been foreseeable to a reasonably prudent person, meaning the apartment complex likely would not be liable.
Failure to Provide Adequate Security
In circumstances where an apartment complex has a demonstrated history of criminal conduct, an apartment complex assumes the duty to provide adequate security. Should they fail in that duty, they may be liable.
For instance, if an apartment complex has experienced frequent episodes of breaking and entering in the past, then they are effectively put on notice that there is a problem that they should remedy. A reasonably prudent apartment complex would likely hire an armed security guard who can patrol the complex.
But imagine that an apartment fails to hire a security guard despite the known issue of breaking and entering, and as a result, a young woman is raped in her an apartment by a man who breaks in to assault her. That would be regarded as the apartment complex failing to provide adequate security.
There are other conditions that can arise which can lead to apartment complex liability:
- Broken security cameras
- Broken fences and gates
- Inadequate lighting
- Defective, inadequate, or broken door and window locks
- Defective entry alarms
If these or other defects of the premises aid a criminal in committing a harmful act against a resident, then the apartment complex may be liable for the resulting injuries or death.
Criminal Acts of Apartment Personnel
An apartment complex may also be held liable for criminal acts that were committed by their employees. Apartment complexes--like any other business--owe a duty to the public to vet their employees. If they neglect to conduct an appropriate background check, or if they knowingly hire an employee with violent or criminal tendencies, then the apartment complex may be liable for harm caused by the criminal acts of these employees.
What About Non-Injuries?
Criminal acts that occur at an apartment complex most often result in property damage or loss. This often includes damage to vehicles and theft of personal property. However, this is a different area of the law than injury and wrongful death law. Candidly, our firm does not have experience with property loss cases. If you need help with a property damage claim against an apartment complex, we would recommend that you contact your local Bar Association who will help you find an attorney who has expertise in that area of the law.
Our Texas Apartment Liability Attorneys Are Here to Help
Grossman Law Offices has litigated thousands of cases. Our attorneys have 30 years of experience helping injured Texans. If you would like to have your apartment complex injury case evaluated by one of our attorneys, contact us for a free consultation at (855) 326-0000.