LANDLORD MAY HAVE ASSUMED ENHANCED DUTY TO PROTECT TENANTS BY INSTALLING SECURITY CAMERAS From the Ganfer & Shore, LLP Client Advisory June 2008
Many property owners had installed security cameras in an effort to combat crime and vandalism.However, by installing cameras, owners may induce their tenants to rely on the cameras to provide enhanced security, increasing the likelihood that a court will hold the owner liable should a tenant be victimized by crime.Benitez v. Whitehall Apartments Co., 19 Misc. 3d 1120(A), 2008 WL 1744268, 2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 50779(U) (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. Apr. 15,
The plaintiff in this case was a residential tenant who was sexually assaulted by an intruder in the elevator of her apartment building.She sued the landlord and the managing agent for negligence.The court dismissed the suit insofar as it was based upon traditional theories of negligence, because the door locks were fully operational and the landlord had provided at least minimal security measures for the premises.However, the opposite conclusion was reached with respect to plaintiffs claim based upon allegedly non-functional security cameras.Several years earlier, the landlord had installed cameras throughout the building, including a camera in the elevator, which the landlord explained was installed for the purpose of determining who had been vandalizing the elevator.Based on the limited history of criminal activity in the building, the court held that the assault in the elevator was unforeseeable and that the landlord would have had no liability had it never installed security cameras at all.However, the tenant argued that the landlord did provide the cameras and that building personnel had assured her that someone would always be monitoring them, thereby lull[ing her] into a false sense of security.The court held that this allegation was sufficient to raise an issue of fact as to whether the landlord had assumed an obligation to maintain and monitor the security cameras because tenants would rely upon them to provide enhanced security in the building.