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Landlord liability for criminal activity

Landlords have certain legal duties and responsibilities, such as the duty to repair property and to maintain it in a habitable condition. As a general rule, landlords do not have a duty to protect tenants from criminal activity that occurs on the premises. Of course, there are exceptions.

According to Illinois law, there are two exceptions to the general rule. The first is called the voluntary-undertaking exception. Under this exception, a landlord may be held responsible for criminal activity if the landlord voluntarily undertakes to provide security measures but is negligent in doing so. That negligence must also be the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury.

In one case, an Illinois court found that a landlord was liable for an intruder's assault on a tenant when the landlord failed to properly repair an interior security door and safety lock. By promising the tenant that he would repair the door, the landlord voluntarily took steps to provide security measures. Consequently, the landlord had a duty to protect the tenant from the intruder's criminal acts.

The second exception to the general rule is called the notice exception. Landlords may be liable for a third party's criminal act when the landlord had notice of a prior criminal act that is connected to the physical condition of the premises and is similar to the act that caused the plaintiff's injury.

For example, a court found that a landlord was responsible when an intruder climbed a ladder that the landlord stored in the yard, entered an apartment through a window that could not be locked, and murdered the tenant. In this case, the landlord knew that a burglar previously used that ladder to enter the same window. Thus, the landlord had sufficient notice when the ladder had been used for a prior criminal act.

As the examples above demonstrate, a landlord's liability for criminal acts really depends on the particular facts of the case. For this reason, landlord-tenant law can be very complicated. To get help with your premises liability claim, it may be best to speak with an experienced attorney.

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