It’s 1:00 am. A mother who is working two jobs to make ends meet is pulling up to her parking space at her apartment complex. It’s dark out, very dark. In fact, the three parking lot lights that were supposed to be replaced last week are still out leaving her perplexed as to why it still hasn’t been taken care of. Exhausted, and with little energy to keep her wits about her, the woman steps out of her car. A man dressed in black that has been waiting in a dark area of the parking lot seizes his moment and attacks her stealing her purse and also hurting her in the process.
In this situation the landlord and property management company may have a large lawsuit on their hands. And we’re not talking about a couple thousand dollars, this claim can arise into a few million dollars depending on the degree of the crime. This can have a huge financial impact on the owner if not properly protected by his insurance policy. It can also cost the reputation of this once profitable apartment building. All because of a simple service call to replace a few lights in the parking lot that could have been easily avoided.
In November of 2014, a real life situation occurred in a South Florida apartment complex with a local chef that was murdered inside of her apartment building. Her parents sued managers of the gated complex and a security company. The reason? The lawsuit alleges that reasonable security, nighttime lighting and adequate locks and keys were not provided for the apartment where their 19-year-old daughter lived, according to the claim.
So what can be done to prevent such a tragedy and also to protect the owner and all related parties as well? The following is a list of simple tasks that both the landlord and property management company can follow in order to reduce crime related incidents on their premises:
- ACT RIGHT AWAY! Quickly respond to tenants’ suggestions and complaints about security. If an important component of your security systems breaks, fix it on an emergency basis and provide appropriate alternative security.
- Provide and maintain adequate security measures based on an analysis of the vulnerability of your property and neighborhood. In some cases, this may mean sturdy front and apartment door locks, good interior and exterior lighting, and neat and compact landscaping that doesn’t obscure entryways. Depending on the circumstances and your property, you may want to install window bars or a security system. If your tenants will pay more rent if you make the building safer, do so.
- Tighten up management practices to make your tenants and property safer—for example, practice strict key control in your rental property.
- Train your manager and employees (if any) on how to avoid dangerous situations and correct worrisome ones.
- Make sure your Liability limits of insurance are large enough for your given exposure! Don’t assume just because you have a $1 million dollar occurrence limit that that will protect you. With attorney fees, medical payouts, and other monetary items, the loss can add up very quickly and exceed your policy limits. Have a knowledgeable insurance agent review your current policy in place to ensure you are properly protected.
- Inspect the premises regularly to spot security problems, and ask tenants for their suggestions. Get advice from experts as well, such as local police departments.
- Be aware of threats to tenants’ security from the manager or other tenants and handle safety and security problems quickly, especially those involving drug dealing.
- Keep oral and written promises regarding security measures—such as an advertisement promising garage parking or security personnel—to a truthful minimum.