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Tenant Safety: Can Your Landlord Be Liable for Inadequate Security?

September 1st, 2020 | by RON BELL

Tenant Safety: Can Your Landlord Be Liable for Inadequate Security?

Premises liability law gives individuals the right to compensation in the case of various accidents that may occur as a result of a property owner’s negligence. Negligent security is one aspect of premises liability law that determines whether property visitors who fell victim to injuries arising from a preventable crime may be compensated for their losses. Read our blog to learn more.

Imagine the following scenario: An apartment occupied by a tenant gets broken into in the middle of the night. The tenant is woken up by the noise and, realizing what’s happening, tries to stop the burglar. A fight ensues and the tenant manages to scare the intruder away but gets injured in the process. A medical checkup reveals he suffered a spinal injury, prompting his doctor to prescribe a number of medical procedures. Not all of these procedures will be covered by his insurance, resulting in considerable out-of-pocket expenses. What’s more, the injuries prevent the unlucky tenant from going to work for several weeks, resulting in considerable financial losses and putting a further strain on his budget.

Far from being just a theoretical situation, such a scenario is a real risk experienced by many New Mexico residents. In fact, in 2018, New Mexico had the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate and its highest property crime rate. In a report released in October last year, the state registered “857 violent crimes and 3,420 property crimes per 100,000 residents in 2018.” Albuquerque, which accounted for more than half of the state’s crime overall, “had rates of 1,365 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, and 6,179 property crimes per 100,000 residents.” These numbers are significantly higher than the US average of 369 and 2,200 per 100,000 residents for violent crimes and property crimes respectively–showing just how big of a problem crime is in New Mexico.

Security issues are naturally of great concern for tenants and landlords alike. That’s why some residential areas in our state rely on security systems that may involve security guards, cameras, alarms, and other means to keep citizens safe. According to New Mexico premises liability law, ensuring reasonable security of a property is the responsibility of its owner. If he or she fails to do so and a tenant suffers losses and injuries as the victim of a crime–as in the scenario described above–the owner of the property may be held liable for such losses. In this article, we explain the legal principles that protect property visitors and tenants in these situations.

What is Inadequate or Negligent Security?

Premises liability is a broad legal concept dealing with a number of situations in which a property owner can be held liable for the injuries of a third party on the property. It is presumed that property owners–and, in certain circumstances, also other responsible parties such as managers–have a duty of care towards individuals using the property. That duty encompasses the responsibility of ensuring reasonably safe conditions of property use. Failure to do so constitutes negligence. 

Therefore, under premises liability law, a person who got injured after slipping and falling on a slippery or uneven floor may pursue an injury claim against the property owner to obtain compensation. Similar situations where premises liability law can be applied may include accidents that were caused by faulty or insufficient maintenance of the property, inadequate lighting, and more.

Under the same legal principle, the owner of any residential or commercial property has a legal duty to protect tenants from injuries that may arise due to foreseeable criminal activity. Of course, security measures that a landlord is obliged to take may differ depending on a number of factors–such as the value of the property, the rates and kinds of crime prevalent in the area, and so on. Still, if a landlord failed to provide sufficient and adequate protections to prevent a crime, he or she may be found guilty of negligent security.

How Negligent Security Claims Work

There are a few conditions that must be met for a crime victim to be able to introduce a successful negligent security claim. First, the crime must have resulted in actual injury or material losses. Second, you must be able to prove that the property owner’s failure to provide adequate security contributed to your injury or loss. In other words, you must prove that the crime could have been prevented if reasonable security measures had been in place.

Negligent security claims are often complex and demanding. It is not always easy to prove a property owner’s negligence. At times, it may be necessary to show that the crime which led to your injuries was a recurrent problem affecting a certain area or even the property in question. In other situations, it may be sufficient to prove that the landlord failed to comply with the minimum security requirements for a certain kind of property set by local or state authorities. 

In any case, if a tenant suffers an injury due to a preventable crime, it is important to remember that the property owner may be liable for the resulting injuries and financial losses. An experienced negligent security lawyer will no doubt be able to provide more information and legal advice relevant to your unique case.

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