Pennsylvania Law – Landlord Liability for Criminal Activity
Under Pennsylvania law, a landlord who fails to provide reasonable security measures may be held liable for criminal activity on the premises. For example, due to a faulty lock system, a criminal perpetrator gains access to a common area and physically attacks an unsuspecting tenant. The tenant sustains serious injuries in addition to the mental and emotional trauma of the attack. The landlord may be liable if the landlord either knew about the risk or should have anticipated the attack.
This rule of law is applied in cases where tenants, guests and other visitors to the property, such as mail delivery employees or utility company employees are injured as a result of criminal activity on the premises. In addition, both commercial and residential landlords as well as property management companies and security companies may be held liable in a negligent security case in Pennsylvania. This rule can also be extended to hotels, bars, restaurants and other businesses such as grocery stores or shopping malls.
However, it’s important to note that in general landlords are not guarantors of safety. They will not be held liable for attacks that occur inside a tenant’s apartment between a tenant and a guest. Similarly, they will not be held liable for criminal activity that was not reasonably foreseeable.
The key in these kinds of cases is proving that the landlord either knew or should have known about security issues and failed to take reasonable steps to protect tenants, guests and visitors.
Most cases of criminal activity at an apartment complex are not isolated. Criminal activity tends to occur in waves. Oftentimes, a landlord had knowledge of criminal activity or an increased risk of criminal activity on the premises, yet failed to take reasonable precautions. Such failure to act can lead to liability. Also, if a criminal perpetrator gets access to an apartment building because of a defect in the property, the landlord can be held liable under Pennsylvania law. Common defects which may lead to liability for criminal access include:
- broken doors,
- broken locks,
- unsecure windows,
- inadequate lighting, or
- inadequate guest/admission procedures.
Proving Landlord Liability in a Negligent Security Case in Pennsylvania
Oftentimes, these cases hinge on the nature and extent of prior criminal activity on and near the premises. Evidence which can help to establish the landlord’s liability includes:
- prior verbal and written complaints of criminal activity,
- evidence of recent criminal activity at the premises,
- evidence of recent criminal activity in the immediate area, and
- knowledge of defects on the property such as a broken window or door.
It is vital to have these cases properly investigated for potential liability of not only the landlord but also maintenance or security companies. Larger apartment complexes and buildings often contract out security to other companies. These companies may be held liable as well.
Visit our Negligent Security Law Library for more information about PA and NJ law.
For more information, contact our Pennsylvania negligent security and landlord liability lawyers at Laffey, Bucci & Kent. Our lawyers offer free consultations.
**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
Last Updated: June 16, 2015
Published: July 12, 2012