Landlord Responsibility Case
Understanding tort law and ethical responsibilities is normally developed in case discussions of legal scenarios. In a case scenario where an intruder breaks in by forcing a tenant’s sliding glass door and attacks the tenant and injures the maintenance man who tries to stop the intruder, there are concerns with liability for the apartment complex. By analyzing tort law, the risks and liability in this situation can be properly assessed. Providing that the landlord followed the law, the risk of liability is reduced tremendously for the apartment complex.
Liability law in the landlord, tenant relationship is expressed in law in most states. This relationship is based on tort law which provides that liability is determined by the efforts of the landlord to provide a safe environment. In accordance with most state laws, landlords must take steps to ensure that tenants are reasonably protected from criminals such as thieves (FindLaw, 2016).
In the case of an intruder, the liability of the landlord would need to be determined by the steps the company took to provide the tenant with a reasonably safe environment to live in. The following questions, among others, would need to be answered in order to determine if the apartment complex was negligent:
• Was the apartment secure with functioning door locks?
• What are the minimum safety standards in the state law and did the complex meet these standards?
Providing that the apartment complex could answer yes to these questions, then the complex would not be negligent (FindLaw, 2016). It should be noted that this lack of negligence is based on the company’s ability to produce documentation that shows the organization took reasonable steps to protect a person if the tenant pursues a case for damages with the intruder.
Providing the complex took steps necessary to protect the tenant, they would likely have no liability to the tenant, but this is not the case with the maintenance man. The apartment complex will likely be responsible for the maintenance man’s injuries under the workman’s compensation. This is due to the agency relationship between maintenance man and the company. The maintenance man responded to the situation and was injured and this response can be seen as acting as an agent of the company (employee). Within this framework, the apartment complex is responsible for his injuries since he was acting as an employee. Injuries that occur in the workplace or in the act of work fall under the domain of workman’s compensation laws (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2013). In this instance, the liability is debatable depending on the policies of the organization. Since the maintenance man lives and works on the premises, it is likely that he was required to deal with situations such as emergencies and problems as they arise but it is possible for the apartment complex to claim the maintenance man was off duty and therefore not responsible for dealing with this situation. This argument would be weak if the maintenance man lived on the premises for the purpose of managing the community. Even if living off premise, the question arises why he was there? The apartment company or its insurance would likely be responsible for his injuries and lost time from work.
The intruder is the most culpable person in this scenario due to the fact that he caused the situation. The tenant, maintenance man, and apartment complex would be able to pursue damages whether they be personal or property. This liability could be pursued whether the person is found guilty or innocent of the crime. This is due to the fact that a civil suit is not contingent on a guilty verdict. The plaintiffs, under tort law, would only have to prove a preponderance of evidence as opposed to reasonable doubt (FindLaw, 2016).
Scenarios such as this reflect the need to mitigate the risk of potential torts. There are many ways to reduce the risk of liability. These methods are founded on taking preventative measures to ensure safety. For example in this case the following measures should be met such as making sure doors and locks function as well as fire alarms and extinguishers. Screening tenants is another way to reduce liability along with posting emergency plans for the community and building. Within the scope of tort law, taking precautions to maintain the property for safety applies to all organizations. The same logic applies to slip and fall scenarios in stores. If a company has not taken reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of customers such as posting warning signs or making sure that walkways are clear, the company can be held liable for damages resulting from accidents.
As well as legal responsibilities, there are ethical responsibilities that the company should consider. It is important that the apartment complex approach the scenario with an honest means of determining liability. What is meant by this is that the company should not attempt to hide behind a policy in order to shrug its responsibilities to the maintenance man or tenant. In this scenario, the company needs to honestly assess its maintenance and operations to make sure that it complies with local laws and has proper documentation.
FindLaw. (2016). FAQ — Landlord Responsibilities: Criminal Activities. Retrieved from FindLaw: http://realestate.findlaw.com/landlord-tenant-law/faq-landlord-responsibilities-criminal-activities.html
PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2013). Benefits and Implications of State Workers Compensation Fund Modernization and Privatization. Retrieved from PricewaterhouseCoopers: http://www.pwc.com/us/en/insurance/assets/pwc-state-workers-compensation-fund-modernization-and-privatization.pdf