Crime Victims at Low Income Housing Apartments

Expensive rentals and condominiums provide extensive security programs to protect residents and guests. Low income renters often don’t get the same protection as more affluent apartment dwellers. Legal protections exist for government supported properties. Though not well known by the public many requirements for safety and security are mandated by federal statutes and regulations for subsidized housing. Developers and managers get rent subsidies, guaranteed loans, tax credits and other accommodations to encourage availability of housing for economically disadvantaged persons. Our law firm has identified these requirements and used them to establish the standard of care and duty owed to residents and guests. Where violations occur we have successfully helped victims recover money for their injuries.

Legislation providing rent subsidies requires landlords to carefully screen for income qualification and for criminal background as well. Not infrequently, real estate managers are careless about criminal background checks once they can establish their prospective tenant is income qualified to receive government paid rent benefits. Our own screening has turned up inadequate background searches. Some example is renters with criminal records from other states and foreign countries who come under the inexpensive commercial background check radar. Another common situation is use nominees who qualify and sign a lease for a defacto renter or real tenant who has a criminal record. The common landlord excuse that they were deceived is usually easily defeated by showing actual knowledge that the defacto tenant is known to management as a resident. Likewise, after renting to a qualified tenant extended families frequently move in despite lease language prohibiting the practice. When these unauthorized tenants victimize innocent persons civil liability can arise and our firm has discovered these violations through probing investigation used to get to the real truth about how and why a preventable crime occurred. To obtain United States Department of Housing and Urban Development approvals for loan guarantees low income housing developers are required to submit and implement a management plan which includes security management procedures. We have found that even if the original developer adheres to the plan in the early operation of the property the passage of time erodes the compliance. Many times new owners never even read the management plan much less act to implement it. Failure to fulfill the obligations undertaken by owners to get the government benefits has been the basis of recover for several of our clients. Digging deep into public records sometimes uncovers formal violation notices issued to owners/managers by inspectors acting for HUD offices. We have found the evidence needed to win large settlements and verdicts in crime victim cases against owners/managers; and other liability situations sued inspectors for missed defects such as falling sundecks from rotten wood overlooked by inspectors.

Responsibility for failure to provide adequate security programs can be traced in many cases to poorly trained or simply unqualified resident managers. Real estate management companies often provide free or reduced rent to an on site manager. Unfortunately, many such site managers lack training and are given little supervision. Landlord priorities start and end with collecting the rent and qualifying the monthly government vouchers. Security and safety take a back seat to profit driven management. On site managers usually are well meaning but without training, supervision, and resources cannot maintain a safe secure environment. We consult industry sources, such as Building Owners Management Association [BOMA]; Institute for Real Estate Management [IREM]; national, state and local apartment associations; and other training and credentialing organizations to establish the minimum acceptable competence levels. When management falls short innocent victims suffer. Knowing how and where to look for the answers is how we address our clients’ question, “Can you help me get compensated for what happened?”
Gerson & Schwartz PA has represented crime victims and other serious injury cases throughout South Florida for more than 39 years. For more information about our firm visit our website at or you may contact us via email at or at 305-371-6000.

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