Crime and Safety on The Property
By: Tabitha Elligan
Crime and Safety on The Property
By: Tabitha Elligan
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Crime and Safety on the Property

By: Tabitha Elligan – Associate Attorney licensed in Georgia with Brownlee Whitlow & Praet, PLLC

        It is no secret that if you live long enough, crime will occur near and/or around you no matter where you live.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Census Bureau, every 3.8 seconds, someone in America becomes the victim of a property crime and every 26.3 seconds, someone becomes a victim of a violent crime. With these unfortunate statistics, one must wonder what obligations fall upon property owners and management to limit the likelihood of criminal activity occurring within their communities. This blog will explain a few of the responsibilities of property owners and management with regards to crime and safety.

        Several states have city and state regulations, as well as local ordinances that regulate the measures a housing provider should take to guard against criminal activity and/or safety related issues. While the laws in SC, NC and GA vary regarding a housing providers responsibility to guard against criminal activity, there is at least the potential for claims to be asserted should conditions exist under which criminal activity is likely to occur, of which the housing provider knew or should have known, and thereafter a crime occurs causing injury or loss to a resident.. The laws below are applicable to any instances of crime, injury, and the overall health and safety of all parties on the property.

In Georgia, housing provider safety measures are governed by O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1, which states that a property owner has a duty of ordinary care to keep their premises safe especially within areas that they have retained control, such as any common area on the property. In these cases, the landlord owes a duty of care not only all residents, but to anyone who is an invitee – any person is who may be on the property with the resident’s permission.

North Carolina
In North Carolina, The General Assembly issued a Statement of Public Policy found in North Carolina General Statutes § 42-59.1, which states that all residents have the right to the peaceful, safe, and quiet enjoyment of their homes. They recognize that these rights are often affected by crime on the property, but they stand strong in the fact that residents should still be guaranteed their right to safety on the property. Much like Georgia, the state of North Carolina requires housing providers to exercise a duty of reasonable care to expose residents and visitors to any dangerous situations. However, according to North Carolina General Statutes § 42-14.4, housing providers are not liable for the criminal acts of a third party as it has been determined to lack foreseeability.

South Carolina
South Carolina laws, much like the laws in Georgia and North Carolina state that the housing provider often owes a duty of a care of the residents and their visitors. It is specifically defined in the South Carolina Residential Landlord and Tenant Act under Section 27-40-440, which states that the housing provider has a duty to maintain the premises, including but not limited to complying with housing codes, making repairs, and keeping all common areas in a reasonable safe condition. However, unless it can be shown that there was some condition of the property or premises which fostered an environment that encouraged or made it more likely than not that criminal activity would occur, the housing provider is not generally responsible for the criminal acts of an unknown third party.


        Here is the good news – there are several affordable ways for property owners and management to try and limit criminal activity. For example, maintaining good lighting on the outside of buildings including parking lots and hallways or breezeways is a great way to show that the property owners and management are exercising reasonable care for all parties on the property. Proper lighting can act as a crime deterrent. Another example of an affordable way to increase safety is to ensure that all locks on doors and windows are sturdy and functioning properly. Other examples include but are not limited to fencing around the property to keep unwanted guests out, installing a security system with video surveillance, and hiring security to monitor the property.

        When looking into whether a landlord is responsible for the crime that occurred on the property, there are several factors that the court considers, such as whether the victim of the crime was a resident, an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser. However, the most important question is whether it was foreseeable that a crime would occur on the property and if the property owner and management had knowledge of or reason to know of the foreseeability. History of crime in a neighborhood creates an increased responsibility on the property owner and management to take reasonable steps to deter crime while also notifying residents of the potential for crime. If a property owner or management company has knowledge of crime in the area and they fail to take any actions to address it, courts may find them liable.

        In conclusion, taking the proper security measures to limit criminal acts on the property not only limits crime, but it reduces the risk of any resident from claiming ownership or management are responsible. Familiarize yourself with the local crime statistics so that you remain informed of what is going on in the area. The local police department and your insurance company can often be a great help when it comes to presenting ideas to help limit criminal acts. In addition, keep all residents informed of not only the crime that has occurred, but the security measures that you have put in place to limit criminal activity. If a crime does happen on the property, please inform all residents of the incident and what measures you have taken to address it (if there are any – not always the case). Together, I know that we can deter crime and keep our community safe.

     *The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information in this article is for general informational purposes only. Information in this article may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Viewers of this material should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No viewer of this material should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this presentation without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.  Use of, and access to, this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Brownlee Whitlow & Praet, PLLC or any contributing law firms. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this article are hereby expressly disclaimed.