As a locksmith who performs many hundreds of lock changes in the field for landlords, I have some serious concerns relating to the unnecessary risks I see many property owners taking by not understanding or implementing requirements under the Texas Property Code. I am speaking at present specifically about Sec. 92.156 for residential rental property in Texas.
Landlords need to know that they can be legally responsible for injuries that occur on their property. For example, let’s say that someone steps in a post hole in the back yard of a residential rental property and injures their leg. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible for the injured party to sue the property owner in a premises liability lawsuit.
However, what happens if someone is attacked or assaulted on a property? What legal options might the tenant exercise after being attacked on property?
Negligent Security Relating to Residential Rental Property in Texas
Landlords are responsible for providing a safe environment for tenants and patrons. This includes providing adequate security. A landlord could be found negligent if the landlord fails to provide adequate security measures to prevent foreseeable intrusions and attacks on a property.
The Texas Property Code under Section 92 outlines specific security devices that a landlord is required to provide on his or her property.
Some of the basic security devices that must be provided without the request of a tenant include
- a window latch on each exterior window of the dwelling
- a doorknob lock or keyed deadbolt on each exterior swinging door (the passage door into the attached garage is considered an exterior door)
- a door viewer or window in each exterior swinging door
- a keyless bolting device installed on each exterior swinging door
- a pin lock installed in each sliding glass patio style door
- all exterior door locks must be rekeyed within 7 days of the tenant taking possession of the rental unit
A missing, defective or un-rekeyed lock on a door or a window could lead to legal action on behalf of injured parties.
Duty To Repair / Replace Security Devices
Chapter 92.158 of the Texas statute on landlord and tenant responsibilities states that:
“During the lease term and any renewal period, a landlord shall repair or replace a security device on request or notification by the tenant that the security device is inoperable or in need of repair or replacement.” A landlord’s failure to install or rekey certain security devices could lead the tenant to file suit against the landlord to obtain a judgment for the tenant’s damages associated with the negligence in question. Court costs can also be reimbursed with the same judgment. I have personal knowledge of cases where an injured tenant successfully sued for damages after being attacked on their property as a result of negligent security.
In Benser v. Johnson (Tex. App. 1988), a Texas landlord was held liable for negligent security after the court found the tenant was provided with locks that were later determined to be defective. An intruder gained unauthorized access to the premises through a window that was not secured and assaulted the tenant. The landlord’s negligence was determined to have been a cause of the tenant’s injuries and as a result, the tenant was able to recover compensation for damages.
If you are a property owner who rents for residential use in Texas, you can reduce your risk of legal action by following the requirements of the Texas Property Code. Call on a licensed locksmith to assist you with a security consultation. It may save you thousands.
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