As a property owner or manager, you’re responsible in many ways for the safety and security of your tenants, as well as passersby. For instance, if someone slips and falls on a wet floor, icy sidewalk or uneven steps, you could be liable. If a fire exit is blocked or a visitor is assaulted, robbed or injured on your property, the responsibility could fall on you. Here’s what you need to know about security and liability for landlords to protect your tenants, your visitors and your investment in your property.
Property Safety & Security Liability for Landlords: The Basics
If your building is a Class A multiple dwelling—in New York City, a building with three or more units generally used as permanent residences—you must provide the following:
- At least one approved and operational carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector in each apartment (and it’s your responsibility to make sure the batteries are working)
- A fire escape plan posted on the inside of every apartment door and in the common area (also distributed to each dwelling)
- Clear, unobstructed exits
- A heavy-duty deadbolt lock on each apartment operated by a key from the outside and a thumb-turn from the inside, as well as a chain door guard
- An operating peephole in the entrance door
If a tenant reports any related issue, such as a broken lock, you must repair, replace or correct the issue as soon as realistically possible.
Landlord Liability for Maintenance
Loose railings, crumbling steps, broken/burned out lights, puddles in the hallway and snow/ice on the sidewalk outside your building leave you liable for slips, falls and other injuries.
And “I didn’t know” isn’t a strong defense. If the law believes you should have known about a potential hazard or issue, and you had a reasonable opportunity to correct the issue (but didn’t), you may be held liable.
So keep an eye out for potential hazards, such as the following:
- Slippery or uneven surfaces
- Poorly marked/poorly lit walkway transitions
- Holes or cracks in surfaces
- Wet surfaces caused by spills, leaks, poor drainage or inclement weather
Potential hazards that are foreseeable are your responsibility. Keep your tenants and visitors safe, and reduce your potential liability.
For more information on security and liability for landlords, see our related post for tips on improving building safety and security.