How to Reduce Your Liability for Criminal Acts that Occur on Your Property

In recent years, an increasing number of lawsuits against landlords are claimed by tenants because of criminal acts of other tenants and/or their guests in and around the property.  Liability is higher for the Landlord if they take less steps to prevent such occurrences.  These cases often cost the landlord somewhere around $500,000-$1,000,000 in settlements. The following are things that you can do to reduce your liability:

1. Screen your tenants carefully

Before signing a leasing contract with your prospective tenants, be sure to run a rental history, criminal history, and a credit report if you are able.  Screening your prospective tenants significantly reduces the likelihood that criminal acts will take place on your property.  If any crime does occur, you now have documentation that allows you to claim in court that you took significant precautions to prevent crime on your property.

2. Include explicit clauses in the rental agreement

Be sure to state explicitly in the rental contract that the landlord has the option of evicting any tenant that has committed criminal acts, including making or dealing drugs in the rental property.  Make it clear that once they are caught violating this clause, no excuses or arguments are accepted and they will be evicted immediately.

3. Educating tenants about criminal status

Tenants are more likely to notice unusual behavior by their neighbors than property management.  Educate your tenants about crime prevention and listen carefully for complaints about strange odors or high amounts of traffic in and around a certain apartment or rental property.  This may help you to identify criminal behavior in advance and protect your property more efficiently.  You may even be able to coordinate with neighboring properties to set up a neighborhood watch program.

4. Keep a watchful eye on news broadcasts for your neighborhood

Pay attention to news reports so that you can alert your tenants to crime happening in the area.  You can also get yourself and your tenants signed up for an email alert system so that you can be instantly alerted to potential dangers.  The RRD offers a Neighborhood Email Alert System that connects your email to local law enforcement.  In recent, it has been especially helpful in broadcasting individuals gone missing.

5. Make On-Site Security Enhancements

There are a number of physical enhancements that you can make to your property to prevent crime from intruders.  This includes:

  • Double-bolted locks
  • Electronic Security System
  • On-Site Security (depending on the size of the property)
  • Property management walks a scheduled perimeter (if a smaller property)
  • Baring Windows on the ground floor.

6. Purchase liability insurance

Even if your property is well-equipped by all the things mentioned above, there is still the possibility of unexpected criminal acts occurring on your property.  Be sure to purchase liability insurance for your property.  If anything does go wrong on your property, the liability insurance can lessen your losses.

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