Everyone knows that downtown Atlanta has a crime problem. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has extensively covered rampant crime in local housing complexes, and Atlanta prosecutors recently published a list of “persistently dangerous and unhealthy” apartment complexes. Everyone also knows that tenants living in these conditions deserve better. But most people don’t know that tenants have a legal right to safe housing. And crime victims may be able to recover money damages from their negligent landlords.
Georgia law protects tenants. In Georgia, landlords have a duty to keep property they lease safe. If they fail to do so, they may be “liable in damages” to injured tenants. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1. In some circumstances, landlords must even take measures to prevent crime. Landlords who fail to do so may be financially responsible for a third-party’s criminal conduct, including serious crimes like burglary, assault, murder, or rape.
Whether a landlord is liable to crime victims boils down to two questions. The first question is whether the crime was foreseeable. If a crime is “reasonably foreseeable,” then landlords have a duty to take reasonable measures to prevent it. Ga. CVS Pharmacy, LLC v. Carmichael, 316 Ga. 718, 722 (2023).
If a crime is reasonably foreseeable, the second question is “whether the proprietor’s security measures were reasonable.” Carmichael, 316 Ga. at 723. If they were not, then the landlord is liable for all damages caused by the foreseeable crime. For both of these questions, it is generally up to the jury to give an answer after looking at all the facts and making a common-sense judgment.
Importantly, landlords have a duty to provide safe housing even in so-called “bad” neighborhoods. In fact, “[a]n establishment’s location in a high crime area may  support the finding of a duty on the part of the landowner to guard against criminal attacks,” as can “evidence that the landowner had knowledge of a volatile situation brewing on the premises.” Martin v. Six Flags Over Ga. II, L.P., 301 Ga. 323, 331 (2017). In other words, under Georgia law, low-income folks have just as much of a right to safe housing as rich folks. And landlords who own housing in a “high-crime” neighborhood can have a greater duty to adopt reasonable safety measures because past crimes make future similar crimes more foreseeable.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of crimes in or around your home that you believe your landlord should have done more to prevent, you may have valid legal claims. We at The Block Firm are dedicated to protecting tenants’ rights, and we have fought to secure great results for tenants against corporate landlords that try to get away with doing the bare minimum to protect their tenants’ health and safety. If you believe that you may have a claim related to your landlord’s negligent security, we would be happy to provide a free consultation and discuss your legal options.
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