What is an apartment owner or manager's responsibility to tenants both in conducting screenings of other potential renters and in making sure the apartment premises is secure? These are two key questions being asked in a case arising from the tragic death of a college sophomore who was killed in her apartment. The young woman died when a gunfight broke out in the apartment above where she was living, with one of the bullets coming down through the ceiling.
Apartment owners and property managers cannot anticipate every possible instance in which violence could occur and people could get hurt. Georgia premises liability laws, however, do impose some basic responsibilities on those who own and rent apartments to take reasonable steps to protect tenants. The question of what is reasonable, and whether those who owned and operated the property failed to fulfill their obligations, will vary based on the circumstances. If there tends to be more crime in a particular area, for example, an apartment owner may have a higher duty to take steps to prevent that criminal behavior from affecting its tenants.
Holding Apartment Owners and Operators Accountable For Negligent Security
Kentucky.com reported on the circumstances leading up to the sophomore's death by shooting. Three men were driven to the apartment complex by a fourth person, and the men forced their way into the apartment above the college sophomore. They were armed and wearing ski masks. A gun fight broke out with the people in the apartment, with one of the bullets going through the floor. Those who orchestrated the break-in are on trial for murder, assault, and burglary.
The young woman's parents, however, want to hold the apartment complex accountable as well. The parents claim the apartment helped to facilitate the criminal act because they failed to take adequate steps to make a safe and secure premises. There was no barrier fence surrounding the apartment complex, there was no security check to enter, there was no access gate preventing entry, and there were no cameras anywhere inside or outside of the apartment units that would record criminal behavior or act as a deterrent to criminal activity.
Even more basic steps were not taken by the apartment, such as having security personnel present, having a well-illuminated parking lot, or imposing any barriers at all to entering or exiting the apartment units. The apartment complex maintained these poorly secured premises despite the fact there was ample evidence to suggest this increased the susceptibility of criminal activities.
Not only did the apartment fail to provide security, but the parents of the deceased young woman also indicate the apartment managers and owners were negligent in maintaining safe rental practices as well. The parents allege no background checks were performed on tenants before they were allowed to rent apartments; evictions did not occur despite tenants engaging in criminal activity; and apartment managers did not investigate or promptly respond to any disturbances.
If the parents successfully prove the apartment failed in its obligations and that this failure was a contributing cause of their daughter's death, they will be able to obtain monetary compensation for their tragic losses.