Landlord Liability for Broken Locks and Gates

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Landlords are liable for any foreseeable injuries, deaths, theft, or damages that occur because of broken locks, gates, etc. causing security issues. Tenants should inform landlords immediately and request a fix. Additionally, they may violate local housing codes and will be in violation of most states' "implied warranty of habitability" rules.

Security Required

In every state except Arkansas, leases include an “implied warranty of habitability” which requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right even if there is no written lease, it’s not mentioned in the lease, or even despite a lease that says the landlord is not responsible. This includes basic security like having locking doors. Safety is relative and depends on the area, but a broken lock is generally seen as severe and should be fixed immediately in nearly every urban and suburban areas. In the countryside where many leave their doors unlocked, it may be less of a priority. Unless the tenant caused the problem, the landlord cannot charge tenants for these repairs.

Housing Code Violations

When a state or local law defines the “implied warranty of habitability”, they often explicitly mention door locks and sometimes even require deadbolts (e.g., see California Civil Code section 1941). Additionally, state and local laws often include detailed rules about whether a landlord needs to provide locks and sometimes, what kinds of locks. Where a landlord is in significant violation of housing codes, or where the apartment has become unsafe, tenants can report the issue to housing authorities. This may result in an inspector visiting the apartment and then generating a report. Depending on the jurisdiction, the report may go to the landlord, the city, or to housing court. Failure to fix the problem may result in fines, court orders to fix the problem, reductions in rent, or other remedies. Often, the threat of reporting violations will push landlords to fix issues quickly. Tenants that suffer harsh conditions, can’t afford a lawyer, and don’t wish to move to a different apartment may consider this option of reporting the landlord. Sometimes, tenants will be required to report a housing code violation before taking a landlord to landlord-tenant court.

Deduct and Repair

About two-thirds of states allow tenants to deduct the costs of repairs from their rent when certain conditions are met. Usually, the state includes detailed rules about the types of repairs the tenant can make, how much they can deduct for the repairs, how long the tenant must wait before making the repair, and the proper notice the tenant must give to the landlord. If a tenant fails to follow the proper procedures for a deduct and repair, they may be legally treated as not paying a portion of their rent and thus, may be evicted. Tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in a deduct and repair, or at least fully read the law and procedure about the requirements. This remedy is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Rent Withholding

About 80% of states allow tenants to withhold rent until essential repairs are made. These states may offer restrictions about the types of issues that tenants can withhold rent for, the amount they can withhold, details about the timing and content of the notice the tenant sends the landlord, and sometimes requires the rent be placed in an escrow account. If a tenant fails to meet these requirements, the tenant may be successfully evicted. Therefore, tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in rent withholding, or at least fully read the process and requirements. This is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Breaking the Lease

In every state except for Arkansas, the “implied warranty of habitability” guarantees that tenants should live in safe housing. If a broken lock jeopardizes security and the landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable time, tenants are free to break a lease if the (some jurisdictions specify exact time periods by which landlords must fix issues).

Costs of Theft and Injury

Landlords face significant financial burdens if they fail to fix broken locks essential to the security of the tenant. Tenants can sue for injuries or property damage caused by the landlord’s negligent actions. In particular, landlords will have to pay the tenant’s damages if 1) the issue was known or should have been known by the landlord, 2) the landlord did not fix the problem in a reasonable time after they were notified, 3) the cost of the repair is reasonable, 4) and the negligence caused foreseeable injuries. The key element in many of these cases is when a landlord first discovered the problem. For this reason, tenants should keep documentation of when they notified and updated the landlord of each issue. Tenants can recover medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, emotional distress, destruction to personal property and more. Because the cost of such injuries can be very high, landlords should consider holding insurance to protect themselves from tenant injuries.

Security Required


In every state except Arkansas, leases include an “implied warranty of habitability” which requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right even if there is no written lease, it’s not mentioned in the lease, or even despite a lease that says the landlord is not responsible. This includes basic security like having locking doors. Safety is relative and depends on the area, but a broken lock is generally seen as severe and should be fixed immediately in nearly every urban and suburban areas. In the countryside where many leave their doors unlocked, it may be less of a priority. Unless the tenant caused the problem, the landlord cannot charge tenants for these repairs.

Housing Code Violations


When a state or local law defines the “implied warranty of habitability”, they often explicitly mention door locks and sometimes even require deadbolts (e.g., see California Civil Code section 1941). Additionally, state and local laws often include detailed rules about whether a landlord needs to provide locks and sometimes, what kinds of locks. Where a landlord is in significant violation of housing codes, or where the apartment has become unsafe, tenants can report the issue to housing authorities. This may result in an inspector visiting the apartment and then generating a report. Depending on the jurisdiction, the report may go to the landlord, the city, or to housing court. Failure to fix the problem may result in fines, court orders to fix the problem, reductions in rent, or other remedies. Often, the threat of reporting violations will push landlords to fix issues quickly. Tenants that suffer harsh conditions, can’t afford a lawyer, and don’t wish to move to a different apartment may consider this option of reporting the landlord. Sometimes, tenants will be required to report a housing code violation before taking a landlord to landlord-tenant court.

Deduct and Repair


About two-thirds of states allow tenants to deduct the costs of repairs from their rent when certain conditions are met. Usually, the state includes detailed rules about the types of repairs the tenant can make, how much they can deduct for the repairs, how long the tenant must wait before making the repair, and the proper notice the tenant must give to the landlord. If a tenant fails to follow the proper procedures for a deduct and repair, they may be legally treated as not paying a portion of their rent and thus, may be evicted. Tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in a deduct and repair, or at least fully read the law and procedure about the requirements. This remedy is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Rent Withholding


About 80% of states allow tenants to withhold rent until essential repairs are made. These states may offer restrictions about the types of issues that tenants can withhold rent for, the amount they can withhold, details about the timing and content of the notice the tenant sends the landlord, and sometimes requires the rent be placed in an escrow account. If a tenant fails to meet these requirements, the tenant may be successfully evicted. Therefore, tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in rent withholding, or at least fully read the process and requirements. This is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Breaking the Lease


In every state except for Arkansas, the “implied warranty of habitability” guarantees that tenants should live in safe housing. If a broken lock jeopardizes security and the landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable time, tenants are free to break a lease if the (some jurisdictions specify exact time periods by which landlords must fix issues).

Costs of Theft and Injury


Landlords face significant financial burdens if they fail to fix broken locks essential to the security of the tenant. Tenants can sue for injuries or property damage caused by the landlord’s negligent actions. In particular, landlords will have to pay the tenant’s damages if 1) the issue was known or should have been known by the landlord, 2) the landlord did not fix the problem in a reasonable time after they were notified, 3) the cost of the repair is reasonable, 4) and the negligence caused foreseeable injuries. The key element in many of these cases is when a landlord first discovered the problem. For this reason, tenants should keep documentation of when they notified and updated the landlord of each issue. Tenants can recover medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, emotional distress, destruction to personal property and more. Because the cost of such injuries can be very high, landlords should consider holding insurance to protect themselves from tenant injuries.

Last Update : August 27, 2018 UTC

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