The following steps will not only limit the likelihood of crime, but also reduce the risk that the property owner will be found responsible if and when a criminal assault or robbery does occur. A landlord should do the following:
While some of these measures may be costly, the money you spend today on effective crime-prevention measures may pale in comparison to the costs that could result from crime occurring on the premises. Settlements paid by landlords' insurance companies for horrific crimes such as rape and assault are typically in the hundreds of thousands of dollars—and jury awards are higher.
Drug-dealing tenants can cause landlords all kinds of practical and legal problems:
There are several practical steps landlords can take to avoid trouble caused by criminal tenants and to limit their liability in any lawsuits that are filed:
Landlords in most states have some degree of legal responsibility to protect their tenants from would-be assailants and thieves on the property and from the criminal acts of fellow tenants. Landlords must also protect the neighborhood from their tenants' illegal activities, such as drug dealing. These legal duties stem from building codes, ordinances, statutes, and, most frequently, court decisions.
Rental property owners are being sued with increasing frequency by tenants who've been injured by criminals, with settlements and jury awards typically ranging from $100,000 to $1 million. Landlords are especially likely to be held liable when a crime occurs on property where a similar assault or other crime has occurred in the past.
For a guide to help landlords identify common risky situations and get specific, practical advice for dealing with them, read Every Landlord's Legal Guide, by Janet Portman, J.D. and Marcia Stewart.