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Landlord obligations to tenant safety

Michigan readers may be interested in a recent decision by an Ohio appellate court regarding a landlord's obligation to reasonably protect the safety of a tenant. The issues between the three people involved in the case bring a possible new take on whether or not a lease agreement can be broken.

The issue began when there was a noise dispute between three tenants. Tenants A and B lived together, but only Tenant A was actually on the lease. Tenant C lived in a unit right about Tenants A and B. Tenant C complained about the noise coming from the apartment of Tenants A and B, and Tenants C claims the pair started harassing her by banging on her door and shouting. Then came a Facebook message with asking Tenant C for sex and attaching a pornographic video. Tenant C gave the landlord the Facebook messages and video. She asked to be let out of her lease because she was afraid of Tenant B, but the landlord elected to move her to another unit in the complex. A few days after Tenant C moved, Tenant B raped her. He was convicted of this crime and sentenced to a nine-year jail term.

The appellate court sent the case back for a jury trial because they felt a jury might find the property management company liable because it could be reasonably foreseen that there might be criminal activity. The company may have failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent it.

If a tenant reports issues that make them feel unsafe, a landlord may wish to allow a real estate law attorney to review the case. An attorney may be able to make recommendations that will solve the problem and lessen the landlord's liability in the case of criminal activity.

Source: Forbes, "Landlord May Be Liable When A Tenant's Facebook Harassment Leads To A Rape", Eric Goldman, October 15, 2013

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