Landlords have the legal responsibility to protect their tenants from crime on the rental property, either under state or local housing rules or as part of their general duty to “act with due care.” Landlord responsibilities (and tenant options if the fails to provide secure premises) are covered in the Nolo article Can I sue my landlord for refusing to provide locks and security devices?
In some cases, landlords, especially absentee ones, may be unaware of security problems in your rental unit or on the property, or at least may not realize the seriousness of the situation. Putting your security requests in writing—whether it’s for dead bolt locks or better outside lighting—can be an effective way to get results. Having a written record of your complaints about personal safety issues—especially when the landlord has not kept promises to provide security items—will provide your landlord an increased incentive to take action. Also, if you plan to withhold rent, you’ll need evidence that you have given the landlord written notice of the problem. (See How Rent Withholding Works for details.) And a written complaint or request letter will be useful evidence should you end up suing your landlord for security problems.
Your letter should remind landlord of the foreseeable consequences, such as an assault or break in, of the landlord’s failure to deal with an obvious security problem; propose a reasonable solution; and suggest that the consequences, such as a burglary or assault, are serious.
Use this Sample Tenant Letter Alerting the Landlord to Dangerous Conditions as a model in preparing your own letter. If you aware of break ins or assaults that are related to the particular security problem, be sure to mention that in your letter (along with anything else that will motivate the landlord to take action). To strengthen your case, have your letter signed by as many tenants as possible. Be sure to keep a copy for your records and the details of your landlord’s response.
For a stronger letter, written by a group of tenants, see the Sample Group Petition to Landlord for Repairs and Property Improvements.