Can my lease prevent me from filing a negligent security case?
Most apartments use standard leases which have provisions that they may use to try to prevent you from filing a lawsuit for landlord liability if your loved one has been sexually assaulted, shot, murdered, etc. These are often referred to as exculpatory clauses. Exculpatory evidence is favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial, which is why landlords prefer them, hoping it will except them from landlord liability claims or lawsuits.
Although the insurance carrier’s lawyer will often use these in an effort to defeat a claim, the Georgia Supreme Court has held that such clauses are unenforceable as they are against public policy.
Negligent Security vs. a Place to Live
We have all rented apartments and know the drill. Typically, there is an inexperienced leasing agent who simply asks you to “check here, check here” through multiple lease documents. It is rare that anyone reads the lease and even rarer that it is explained to you. In fact, most people will say that the leasing agent presses you to simply sign and move forward with the other documents that need to be signed.
So what happens if you have a claim or need a lawyer, but you signed the lease?
First, don’t panic. Any exculpatory clause is likely unenforceable against you, but nonetheless, the insurance carrier may tell you otherwise. Second, speak to an experienced negligent security lawyer who handles cases involving the negligence of an apartment, mall or other business with insufficient security. That lawyer will likely explain to you the likelihood that such clauses are unenforceable.
Do you still have to sign the lease??
That decision will always be yours and certainly whether or not the apartment will allow you to enter into a lease without that specific provision is doubtful. However, an apartment owner cannot abolish their own duty to keep the premises safe through a lease. The landlord has a duty under Georgia law to keep the premises safe for you, or suffer landlord liability. Certainly, we all understand all crime in all places cannot be prevented. However, an apartment and its management company should do everything reasonable to keep it safe for you. Simply putting in a provision in a lease cannot allow them to escape liability!