Are Landlords Responsible for Theft?

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Landlords are responsible for thefts if they failed to provide reasonable safeguards to protect against foreseeable crimes. This typically includes working locks. If the building has a history of theft, the landlord may be required to add additional security, like a security camera or bars over the window. Tenants should inform the landlord about these issues immediately and make specific, reasonable requests for additional safeguards.

Preventative Safeguards

Landlords that own buildings in bad areas may wish to put up safeguards to protect their tenants. Tenants may ask for metal bars over their windows, secondary locks, or lighted walkways. If there has been no incident in the building or neighborhood, the landlord is not typically required to implement such safeguards, unless required by state or local housing codes. If there is a pattern of similar crime in the area or building, landlords are liable for thefts, injuries, and damage to tenant property that occur in their rented apartments if such crimes are reasonably foreseeable. This key element on whether a landlord is responsible is whether there has been a similar pattern of crime in the area. For example, if a tenant lives in a relatively crime-free neighborhood, they cannot claim that it’s foreseeable that there would have been a break-in just because the city or state has high crime statistics. Similar crimes must have been occurred in the same building (or neighborhood, depending on the jurisdiction) for the landlord to be held liable for a first incident. However, most landlords do preemptively secure their buildings as appropriate for the city and neighborhood to prevent crime, to the extent the cost is reasonable. The landlord will be required to implement reasonable safeguards once a crime is committed anyways. If it appears likely that a crime will happen, then a landlord does not save money by denying preemptive security measures – they are simply delaying the changes they’ll likely need to make soon anyways and harming at least one tenant in the process.

After an Incident

Once an incident has occurred to a landlord’s tenant, the landlord is required to implement reasonable safeguards to protect their tenants from such crime. Tenants should immediately report the issue to the landlord and make specific demands about the measures that they seek. For example, tenants may ask for additional locks, bars over windows, security cameras, etc. If the crime is likely to recur (e.g., the neighborhood is clearly dangerous), tenants are entitled to obtain reasonable safeguards. Landlords that fail to provide such reasonable safeguards are liable for any injuries, damages, or stolen property that occur after a pattern of violence is established. The cost of the safeguards is implied in the lease under the “implied warranty of habitability” (applicable everywhere except Arkansas) and so the landlords cannot charge tenants to install such safety features. Tenants can work together to negotiate more easily with the landlord for additional safety features. When tenants work together, it's called a tenant association. RenterPeace helps tenants connect with one another for such purposes.

Reimbursement

If the landlord fails to provide reasonable safeguards to guard a tenants' property, they will be liable for paying the tenant back. However, nearly everywhere, it is impermissible for a tenant to deduct the cost of the theft of rent without the landlord's permission, or refuse to pay rent until they are reimbursed for their losses. Instead, tenants' sole remedy is going to court (usually small claims court). Sometimes, the threat of going to court can influence landlords to pay what they owe. Although small claims court is relatively informal and fast, the time commitment and stress of going to court may make it difficult or inconvenient for tenants to recover damages in practice. For this reason, tenants are encouraged to keep renters insurance (the cost is usually in the ballpark of $15 - $20 per month to cover tens of thousands of dollars in losses). Furthermore, sometimes thefts can occur even when landlords provide reasonable safeguards, which should be covered by most types of renters insurance.  

Preventative Safeguards


Landlords that own buildings in bad areas may wish to put up safeguards to protect their tenants. Tenants may ask for metal bars over their windows, secondary locks, or lighted walkways. If there has been no incident in the building or neighborhood, the landlord is not typically required to implement such safeguards, unless required by state or local housing codes.

If there is a pattern of similar crime in the area or building, landlords are liable for thefts, injuries, and damage to tenant property that occur in their rented apartments if such crimes are reasonably foreseeable. This key element on whether a landlord is responsible is whether there has been a similar pattern of crime in the area. For example, if a tenant lives in a relatively crime-free neighborhood, they cannot claim that it’s foreseeable that there would have been a break-in just because the city or state has high crime statistics. Similar crimes must have been occurred in the same building (or neighborhood, depending on the jurisdiction) for the landlord to be held liable for a first incident.

However, most landlords do preemptively secure their buildings as appropriate for the city and neighborhood to prevent crime, to the extent the cost is reasonable. The landlord will be required to implement reasonable safeguards once a crime is committed anyways. If it appears likely that a crime will happen, then a landlord does not save money by denying preemptive security measures – they are simply delaying the changes they’ll likely need to make soon anyways and harming at least one tenant in the process.

After an Incident


Once an incident has occurred to a landlord’s tenant, the landlord is required to implement reasonable safeguards to protect their tenants from such crime. Tenants should immediately report the issue to the landlord and make specific demands about the measures that they seek.

For example, tenants may ask for additional locks, bars over windows, security cameras, etc. If the crime is likely to recur (e.g., the neighborhood is clearly dangerous), tenants are entitled to obtain reasonable safeguards. Landlords that fail to provide such reasonable safeguards are liable for any injuries, damages, or stolen property that occur after a pattern of violence is established. The cost of the safeguards is implied in the lease under the “implied warranty of habitability” (applicable everywhere except Arkansas) and so the landlords cannot charge tenants to install such safety features.

Tenants can work together to negotiate more easily with the landlord for additional safety features. When tenants work together, it's called a tenant association. RenterPeace helps tenants connect with one another for such purposes.

Reimbursement


If the landlord fails to provide reasonable safeguards to guard a tenants' property, they will be liable for paying the tenant back. However, nearly everywhere, it is impermissible for a tenant to deduct the cost of the theft of rent without the landlord's permission, or refuse to pay rent until they are reimbursed for their losses. Instead, tenants' sole remedy is going to court (usually small claims court). Sometimes, the threat of going to court can influence landlords to pay what they owe.

Although small claims court is relatively informal and fast, the time commitment and stress of going to court may make it difficult or inconvenient for tenants to recover damages in practice. For this reason, tenants are encouraged to keep renters insurance (the cost is usually in the ballpark of $15 - $20 per month to cover tens of thousands of dollars in losses). Furthermore, sometimes thefts can occur even when landlords provide reasonable safeguards, which should be covered by most types of renters insurance.


Last Update : July 22, 2018 UTC

Comments discussing Theft

about 2 years ago
0
votes

Do I have to repair garage door if someone broke in
Renter in Charleston, WV, USA
Theft
Your landlord can claim money from his home insurance to pay for repairs due to break-in.
Renter in Wilmington, NC, USA

over 1 year ago
0
votes

Landlord took my tools when I was gone said I can have them back when place was cleaned and wanted me to clean ex girlfriends place also then didnt give them back.
Renter in Fresno, CA, USA
Theft
over 2 years ago
3
votes

Sorry. Spelling. I can no longer see bc theives came in my sleep and took my glasses along with last and favorite picture of missing daughter. Sick and twisted behavio. And the Housing Authority nor police will do a thing. . Seeking an attorney. Legal Aide unable to help much. Was also sexually assaulted and drugged by one of these womens bf who was a dope dealer. They didnt evict him even tho I filed exparte. Now they try to evict me when theives stole my wallet and all my cash for rent. I pai

...read more
Renter in Independence, MO, USA
Theft
over 2 years ago
2
votes

Repeated personal injury. Police and Housing Authorut shove ibder the rug. Yhis jas cost me myself and my children loss of their heritage. Valuables. Our future. We will seek justuce. The pilice are to serve and protecr the victims. Not the criminals whom tje landlord fsvors. Lehally and ethically wrong. The public needs to know tje ugly truth about subsidized housing
Renter in Independence, MO, USA
Theft
about 2 years ago
0
votes

My apartment was broken into. Does my
Renter in Irving, TX, USA
Theft
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