Non-Functioning Apartment Complex Gates Expose Tenants to Violence

To many security-conscious renters, a gate is an important amenity, more essential to daily life than a laundry room or onsite parking. The law requires that each individual apartment have a working deadbolt, so in areas where residential crime is common, a properly locking gate for the complex as a whole is a sensible added precaution. Property owners and managers are quick to appeal to prospective tenants’ safety concerns when advertising a gated apartment complex, but after the lease is signed, they’re not always so quick to address those concerns when the gate is misused or in need of repair.

It’s standard practice in many complexes to leave broken gates open and unmonitored until they can be fixed, which doesn’t always happen with any particular urgency, if at all. This was the case at one complex in Brookhaven over Thanksgiving weekend of 2018, when a woman was mugged and shot in the leg in front of her apartment.

Just a month earlier in Atlanta, a man covertly entered a family’s apartment and sexually assaulted a pair of four- and five-year-old sisters before running away. Residents reported that the complex’s security gate hadn’t functioned for months.

Security Gates Are One of the Most Efficient Ways for Landlords to Keep Tenants Safe

Little research has been done into the exact statistical relationship between security gates and rates of murder, rape, and other violent crime. However, the U.S Department of Justice has performed a series of experimental case studies, in which gates consistently kept communities safer. In one case in Boston, residents managed to prevent the sale of their building to a developer who planned to upgrade it — but only after the expiration of a mandate to maintain it as low-income housing. The sale was awarded instead to a buyer who installed fencing and a gate system that not only offered existing residents greater security in their units, but allowed their children to reclaim an outdoor communal playground that had previously been abandoned as too dangerous.

Gates do cost money to install and maintain, but they also save money on vandalism repairs, and they’re far cheaper than the hourly pay of a security guard. Gates alone aren’t always enough, but if one landlord in Savannah had started with this economical technique, it might have saved the anti-violence activist who was shot and killed in his apartment complex. That complex had a security guard, but he took no action, later reporting that the sound of gunshots was too commonplace to be noteworthy. In spite of this apparently overwhelming incidence of crime and the potential for negligent security, there was no gate in place to provide a basic first line of defense.

Property Liability Can Be Complicated, but a Broken Gate Is Simple

For a landlord to be liable for the criminal actions of a third party, those criminal actions must constitute a foreseeable threat, and the landlord must have failed to take reasonable measures to protect tenants and guests from that threat. “Reasonable measures” can be subjective, but basic maintenance of existing security systems is not a lot to ask. If you or your family have been subjected to criminal victimization by your landlord’s failure to maintain gates, reach out today to learn how the Stoddard Firm can help.