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What duty to property owners owe tenants for security?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2022 | Negligent Security

Security cameras permeate society. Families employ all types of systems, from simple to elaborate, to protect their homes. Businesses and other property owners maintain them for the same reasons, though different legal standards exist.

While federal laws do not apply directly to video surveillance, Georgia law limits safety cameras’ use to areas where no reasonable expectation of privacy exists.

A recent court case addressed a logical question arising from video surveillance: whether liability for crimes that occurred on the property lies with the property owner.

A woman endured a sexual assault by an intruder in her apartment. She brought a claim of premises liability against the company that owned the complex. The company sought a judgment by the court that it had no liability in the case.

Duties owed by a property owner

The woman referenced complaints made to the property regarding the front gate and lighting. In addition, she noted that 29 break-ins had occurred over the previous five years, including a rape and physical assault.

A defense expert opined the company had in place adequate and functional precautions, namely patrol officers on site, adequate lighting and surveillance cameras. In addition, the witness said security gate posed no more of a threat than at any other complex.

The manager also stated that no recent attacks alerted them to a possible assault.

Foreseeability contributes to the level of security

In its analysis, the court reviewed the facts against the elements of negligence and the duties a property owner owes to tenants. While a landowner must exercise ordinary care to keep premises safe, the duty does not ensure safety, unless there are foreseeable criminal acts by a third party.

The court ruled that the woman failed to introduce evidence that the alleged absence of inadequate security measures directly caused the assault.

Property interests versus individual rights lie at the heart of claims of negligent security. Every situation demands the ability to determine whether, and if so to what degree, entities put in place security measures for foreseeable acts. Attorneys who recognize the importance of these issues can offer guidance.