Property owners have a duty under the law to keep their premises safe, and an owner can be liable for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure this.
This area of law is often referred to as Premises Liability or Negligent Security law.
When an individual is harmed because a property owner knew or should have known about a particular danger on the property, but did not take reasonable steps to keep people safe from it, then they can be held legally responsible.
One type of danger that a property owner can be responsible for guarding against is violent crime.
In other words, if a property owner knows that a property is located in a high-crime area, then it has an obligation to take reasonable precautions to protect visitors, tenants, or other invitees from becoming a crime victim.
The types of violent crimes that a property owner may have a duty to protect people from include assaults, attacks, rapes, muggings, and murders.
Businesses/property owners that can be held responsible for failing to reasonably protect people from violent crimes include:
- apartment complexes
- schools, colleges, and universities
- parking garages
- malls/shopping centers
These, or other types of property owners can be sued because they failed to take reasonable steps to protect individuals from becoming crime victims on their property, for instance they did not:
- make sure the area was well-lit
- provide secure fencing
- install locked gates
- have security guards present or their security did not properly patrol the area when the crime occurred
- install security cameras
- respond to calls for help
- run background checks on employees or tenants
- warn tenants or visitors of crimes that were occurring in the area
- make sure that the landscaping was properly maintained which would discourage crime and prevent hiding places for criminals
- install appropriate locks/security devices on doors
A business can be held liable for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the crime – even when the criminal was never identified or found.