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Building's owner and landlord have duty to protect tenants and prevent crime

All residents in New York City, regardless of wealth or address, have a right to feel safe in their own homes. For the millions of residents who live in apartment buildings, building owners and landlords have a legal duty to take action to provide for tenants' safety. This includes ensuring that a building, and/or individual apartment units, is equipped with functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, lead paint is properly handled and vital building equipment is regularly inspected and maintained.

Additionally, building owners and landlords must take steps to provide for the safety of tenants in terms of crime prevention. For example ensuring that a front door entrance is locked and secured or providing for a lobby security attendant helps ensure that individuals who do not live at a premise or are not an invited guest of a tenant cannot enter a building or remain on the premise.

Other security measures that may be employed by a building owner and landlord include security cameras, locked gates, sufficient locks on individual units, peepholes, intercom systems, secure mailboxes and window guards. In cases where these or other types of appropriate safety equipment are not provided and a tenant or tenant's guest suffers injury or harm due to a criminal act, the landlord or owner of a building may be held legally responsible.

In July of 2013, a 23-year-old woman was fatally shot at the New York City Housing Authority's Lincoln Houses in Harlem. According to a police report, the young woman was a resident at the NYCHA public housing project when she was accosted and shot by a 36-year-old homeless woman who had previously been arrested for trespassing at a neighboring property.

The young woman's mother filed a lawsuit against the city alleging that NYCHA failed to provide adequate security to protect residents and prevent crime. In response, the NYCHA is seeking to have the wrongful death claim dismissed citing that "all the risks, hazards and dangers were open, obvious and apparent," to the decedent. In short, the NYCHA is blaming the victim and asserting that she should have known that the premise where she lived was dangerous.

The NYCHA's response has outraged many, including the victim's mother who contends that "everybody has a right to be safe in their home." We'll continue to follow this case and provide updates accordingly.

Source: New York Post, "City: Murder victim should have known 'risks' of public housing," Julia Marsh, Lorena Mangelli and Danika Fears, Sept. 19, 2015

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