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Ashoka Investor Report Newsletter


Criminal Acts Against Tenants By Others

CRIMINAL ACTS AGAINST TENANTS BY OTHERS

Dear Real Estate Investors,

The following case involves a tenant  whose child  was assaulted by another predator living in a apartment complex.  This case was initially awarded by the Jury to the defendant, but  the appeals went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. before being finally decided in favor of the defendants. Though the apartment complex owners won the case the cost of this victory is very shallow since it probably cost the property owner money and time to defend themselves.

However, it is important to note that there were some important items that were pointed out in the trial:

  • First, the plaintiffs lawyers tried to make sure that the apartment complex was running background checks on potential tenant applicants. 
  • Second, the background check review done by the defendants lawyers was reviewed to insure that the landlord was doing the appropriate review.
  • Third, the cost of the legal defense could have been enormous as the case went to the Texas Supreme Court, which hopefully explains why landlords of either single family or multi-family properties should have liability coverage. 
  • Fourth, the tenants lawyers were looking for failure to properly secure the complex with appropriate security personnel or measures.  Security measures include making sure appropriate security devices are installed at a property whether it is a single family home in Houston or Dallas or a apartment complex in the Houston or Dallas area.
Ashoka Lion makes it a policy to run a background check that involves criminal, rental history, previous landlord verification, and current employer.  This is not a guarantee to stop predators. However, owners must also properly install security measures at their rental properties that include door viewers, locking mechanisms,etc. As a property management firm serving our Houston and Dallas area landlords, we will always work to install the appropriate security measures as required by the Texas Property Code.

These cases do not constitute legal advice as they must be interpreted with the facts, laws applicable to the local area, and interpreted with qualified legal counsel; but we hope that they will educate our clients of potential risk and understand methods to mitigate risk.   Our hope is that these series of newsletters will help landlords be better educated about the risk that come with owning and renting a property in the state of Texas, especially in and around the Houston and Dallas area.

Please feel free to invite your other investor friends to visit our website at: www.LionRentalManagement.com and go to our "Owner" menu to sign up under our "Ashoka Lion Landlord Report".  You will receive our newsletter in your email, and each newsletter has instructions on how to unsubscribe if you do not want to receive it any longer.

Thank you for taking the time to become educated landlords and investors.

Respectfully,

Jay Raman
CEO/Managing Director of Ashoka Lion



Criminal acts against tenants by others
(CASE FACTS & INTERPRETATION PROVIDED BY TEXASREALTOR.com)
  • A tenant and her 10-year-old son lived in an apartment complex. One day, the tenant left her son under the care of his aunt, who also lived in the same complex. At 10 a.m., the son left his aunt's apartment unsupervised to retrieve some toys from his apartment. On the way back, another resident lured the son into his apartment and sexually assaulted him. The predator fled and has never been apprehended.

    The mother sued the owners and the manager for negligence, premises liability, breach of contract, breach of implied warranty of habitability, and violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The plaintiff appealed her negligence and premises-liability claims only. The court of appeals reversed and remanded, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the foreseeability of the sexual assault and whether the apartment complex breached its legal duty to protect the tenants from the criminal acts of third parties. The defendants argued that the plaintiff did not present any evidence that the complex proximately caused the injuries and therefore the trial court properly granted summary judgment in its favor. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and upheld the summary judgment for the defendants.

    The plaintiff (mother) argued that there was evidence that the complex proximately caused the injuries for three reasons:


    1. By failing to provide appropriate security personnel and security measures
    2. By failing to implement sufficient security policies and procedures
    3. By failing to warn the other tenants of the predator's dangerous tendencies

    In this case, the question is whether the complex proximately caused the injuries by failing to use ordinary care to reduce or to eliminate an unreasonable risk of harm. The court noted that even if it were to assume that the complex owed the plaintiffs a duty to provide security guards, obtain police reports of calls related to criminal activity in the area, and investigate its tenants, as the plaintiff contends, and further assumed that the complex breached these duties, there was no evidence that such a breach proximately caused the tragic occurrence here. The test for cause in fact is whether the act or omission was a substantial factor in causing the injury without which the harm would not have occurred. If the defendant's negligence merely furnished a condition that made the injuries possible, there can be no cause in fact.

    The plaintiff argued that the complex did not employ a security company to patrol the complex and that had it been provided, the assault would not have occurred. The plaintiff presented no evidence, however, that increased security would have prevented this crime. Since the predator was a tenant, security guards could not have prevented him from moving freely about the complex and interacting with other residents; nor would security guards have had the ability to monitor the goings-on inside his apartment. Nothing transpired [a struggle, screaming, etc.] that reasonably would have alerted security guards had they been present.

    The plaintiff argued that the manager did not obtain police reports of calls related to criminal activity in the area, even though the guide she used in operating the apartments recommended it. But there is no evidence that the police reports would have alerted management that its tenant was likely to sexually assault a young child. Police reports about criminal activity in the area would have done nothing to alert management that the tenant was a pedophile, or to suggest that an attack by a pedophile tenant was likely to occur.

    The plaintiff argued that although the complex required certain documents from prospective tenants like social security cards, drivers' licenses, and criminal-background checks, these documents were missing from a number of tenants' files. But there was no causal connection between this alleged breach of duty and the injury. None of the tenants whose files were allegedly incomplete committed the crime here. Furthermore, a background-check on the predator revealed only driving infractions, nothing that would have alerted a reasonable landlord to the possibility that he posed a danger to others.

    The plaintiff presented no evidence that the sexual assault could have been prevented if the complex had done the three things the plaintiff claims it should have.

    Western Investments, Inc. v. Urena, 162 S.W.3d 547 (Tex. 2005)

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