Rapes and Other Criminal Attacks at Apartment Complexes
We have represented a number of women who were attacked by rapists at their apartment complex. Crime is a huge problem in this area. Traditionally, commercial property owners were not liable for the criminal conduct of third persons. That is, if a person was sexually assaulted or killed while on a commercial property – such as an apartment complex – the owner was often not responsible for the damages. However, under premises liability law, there is a duty to use ordinary care to protect folks from violent criminals when the owner knows or has reason to know of an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm. When apartment complex management fail to exercise care to prevent their tenants from being attacked, they can be held responsible and be made to pay compensation to the victim.
The injury lawyers at Michael P. Fleming & Associates represent a number of women who were viciously assaulted and raped at their apartment complexes by sexual predators who used the apartment complex as their stalking grounds.
How Can an Apartment be Held Accountable for Rape?
Apartments owners and their management companies can be held liable and ordered to pay compensation if they failed to warn their tenants and guests of a foreseeable danger such as a criminal rape or other assault. In determining whether an apartment complex should have foreseen a danger to its guests, a court would consider:
- Whether there was other criminal conduct on the property. Some apartment complexes have a lot of crime on the property for one reason: management does nothing to stop it. They don’t have proper gates, fences or security. They don’t do background checks on tenants. They allow non-tenants to stay on the property. This all leads to increased crime at the complex.
- How recent other crimes had occurred. An increase in recent crime should alert the complex management that there is a problem and responsible owners of apartment complexes would react to address this issue.
- How often other crimes occurred. Constant criminal activity indicates that there are criminals either living on or accessing the property. Management should take action to stop the crime but they often ignore it.
- How similar other crimes were. If there have been an number of rapes on the actual property of the apartment complex, the management should be on notice that there is a sexual predator on their land and do everything possible to stop it.
- What notice did the complex have regarding the other crimes. This is important because what we have seen with our other clients is that the leasing office almost always downplays the crime in the complex while exaggerating their safety and security services. This leads unsuspecting people to lease an apartment at a dangerous complex, let their guard down and then get attacked. When the apartment complex management or owners know about other crimes, they should tell all the tenants immediately so that they can be more careful.
Why is crime worse at some apartments?
There is a very easy answer to this question. It is all about the money. Some apartment complex owners do not want to spend the money to make their tenants safe. Because of this, they allow their condition of their property to deteriorate and attract criminals who seek to attack women. Certain conditions at apartments are sure to cause rapes and other criminal attacks to go up. These include:
- Bad or no security. Leasing agents often entice new tenants by implying or outright promising that there is security in the premises to protect the tenants. This is often false. Unfortunately, many apartments have security only for show or to protect the property – not the tenants.
- Non-working security gates. Apartments with a crime problem often have security gates that do not lock or do not close. Many times, these places have automatic gates for cars that never work or break very often. A security gate that does not work is an invitation for a criminal. Apartment complexes that care about the safety of their tenants spend the money to maintain the gates and immediately repair them when they break.
- Failure to do background checks. It is no surprise that criminals are usually repeat offenders. Allowing men with violent criminal backgrounds to rent an apartment or stay with another tenant is an invitation to crime. Responsible apartment owners spend the money to do a background check on every tenant and refuse to lease an apartment to those that have been arrested for serious crimes in the past.
- Poor or non-working security lighting. Criminals prefer to attack in the darkness and hide in the shadows. Again, failure to spend money on lighting to make a property safe is an invitation to criminals to prey upon women.
- Failing to warn about other attacks and crimes. When there is a crime committed in the property of an apartment complex, the management has a duty under the law to put up notices warning the tenants of the dangerous condition. Unfortunately, warning tenants and prospective tenants of crimes and attacks at an apartment is not good for business and apartments often violate the law and fail to warn women about such dangers.
- Unsecured Apartments. The City of Houston Municipal Code requires that vacant apartments be kept securely locked. When this is not done, criminals use the units to hide and commit crime. We have helped women who were attacked and dragged into an unsecured, vacant apartment. Spending the money to make sure vacant apartments remain secure is necessary to protect women.
Some apartment complexes cut back on security and safety of their tenants in order to increase profit. When this happens, the complex attracts criminals. Apartment complexes should not be allowed to compromise safety for profit at the expense of their tenants.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a serious crime at an apartment complex such as rape, other sexual assault, assault, shooting, stabbing or any other injury causing crime, contact Michael P. Fleming for a free, no-obligation consultation.