Sexual Assault at Home: Is Your Landlord Liable? You hope that you will never have to go through an experience as traumatic as sexual assault. Unfortunately, one out of every six women has suffered sexual assault at one point or another. Meanwhile, only five out of every 1,000 perpetrators go to prison for their shameful actions. What happens if the sexual assault occurs at a property you are renting? Can you hold the landlord liable? Possibly.
Landlords Are Responsible for Providing a Safe Space
Sexual assault liability can extend beyond the perpetrator. In some cases, if the landlord didn’t take enough precautions to protect their tenants, they could face liability for negligent actions. You can’t file a lawsuit in all cases. However, you do have situations where a landlord’s lack of action directly leads to sexual assault.
For example, say you repeatedly tell the landlord about a burnt-out porch light. Despite your repeated complaints about the situation, they never replace the bulb. The lack of proper lighting fosters a hiding place for the perpetrator, which allows them to commit sexual assault. Cases like this could lead to a successful lawsuit. However, you have to have documentation that strengthens and proves your case.
What Happens if the Abuser Lives With You?
You have cases where the sexual assault perpetrator lives with the victim. In situations like this, it is unlikely you will have grounds to file a lawsuit against the landlord. However, if the person is on the lease and you have a valid protection order against them, you can show this to the landlord, and they will have to change the locks within 24 hours. The lock change comes at your expense.
If your landlord fails to change the locks or gives the other tenant a copy of the keys and it leads to sexual assault, this could be grounds for a lawsuit.
This type of liability comes in handy when you can’t find the identity of the assailant. You have other cases where the assailant can’t afford to compensate you like the landlord. To sue successfully, you’d have to prove that the landlord broke their part of the rental agreement. You will need to show that their negligent actions directly led to the sexual assault.
Liability for Landlords in Preventing Sexual Assault
First, the plaintiff must prove that the landlord knew of the risk and failed to take precautionary measures. Some states show more willingness to hold landlords accountable than others. California, for example, has compassion when a sexual assault occurs. The elements that go into a negligent liability claim include:
- Breach of duty
- Duty of care
Landlords have a responsibility to secure the property in the common areas. These spaces include elevators, stairwells, lobbies, and hallways. Depending on the neighborhood, they might take optional measures, such as gate guards, video cameras, and motion sensors. Basic security features like working locks for the windows and deadbolts on doors are required.
The landlord must have taken reasonable measures to prevent crimes from happening. Landlords have a legal responsibility to change the locks of vulnerable tenants within 24 hours of a tenant notifying the police.
Not all cases of sexual assault will classify as landlord negligence. Because of that, you can’t always file a lawsuit. Apartment officials must notify the tenants when an attempted break-in or a rape occurred on the premises. Failure to warn residents of a predator at large can result in a lawsuit for landlord negligence.
Have an experienced attorney look at the specifics of your case. The right lawyer becomes an advocate for your cause and will see that you receive the compensation that you deserve.
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