Legal Memorandum: Landlord's Liability for Tenant's Use of Property

Issue: Whether a landlord may be held liable for the death of a tenant’s patron due to the criminal acts of a third party, when the landlord knows or should have known of the likelihood of violence or crime surrounding the tenant’s use of the property.

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Liability of a landlord; Tenant's use of a property; Death of a tenant's patron
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 47 P.3d 402; 535 S.E.2d 788; 593 N.W.2d 284; 765 N.Y.S.2d 377; 773 N.Y.S.2d 354; 748 So. 2d 1077; 597 S.E.2d 710; 810 N.E.2d 252; 990 P.2d 197; 575 S.E.2d 732; 811 A.2d 881; 810 N.E.2d 894
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2005

  Scurlock v. Pennell, unpublished opinion, Tex. Ct. App.—Houston Feb. 10, 2005 (No. 01-03-01339-CV) (not yet released for publication) (An adjoining landowner owes a duty to a neighbor when the risk of third-party criminal conduct is both unreasonable and foreseeable.  “Factors that a court should consider in determining whether certain criminal conduct is foreseeable include: (1) whether any criminal conduct previously occurred on or near the property, (2) how recently such conduct occurred, (3) how often it occurred, (4) how similar the prior conduct was to the conduct on the property, and (5) what publicity surrounded the occurrences to indicate that the landowner knew or should have known about them.”).

Holcomb v. Colonial Assoc., L.L.C., 597 S.E.2d 710 (N.C. 2004) (Unlike the majority of cases, the court found a landlord liable for a dog bite suffered by a visitor from a tenant’s dog.  Importantly, the court found that the landlord maintained control over the premises when the lease gave the landlord the authority to demand removal of the dog upon notice.); compare Klitzka v. Teutonico, 810 N.E.2d 252 (Ill. Ct. App. 2004) (Landlords were not liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog because “[t]he landlords relinquished control over the presence of animals in the home when they did not insist on a ‘no pets’ clause as part of the arrangement with [tenants].”).

Maheshwari v. City of New York, 810 N.E.2d 894 (N.Y. Ct. App. 2004) (“In cases […]

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