Crime happens—even in the nicest apartment complexes and neighborhoods. Despite landlords’ and property managers’ efforts to deter criminal activity, tenants can still become victims of random or targeted crimes.
So, what should you do if a crime does occur on or near your property? Is it your obligation to disclose the information to tenants?
Recently, a tenant was robbed at gunpoint at a normally quiet Seattle apartment complex. The property manager did not alert other tenants to the robbery. When word got around, many tenants were concerned about the lack of communication. “It’s not right,” said one tenant. “I need to know if there’s an increased risk, so I can be more aware and warn my daughter to be more careful, as well.”
It’s not illegal for landlords to withhold information about crimes on or near their properties. But many, like a landlord friend who owns several four-plexes, choose to inform tenants. Mike shared his experience: “Unfortunately, one of my tenants was mugged. The guy took her purse, but thankfully didn’t hurt her,” he said. “I personally informed each of my tenants about the incident, and asked them to be alert and call the police if they saw anyone suspicious in the area.”
Mike says it’s always better to have more communication with tenants than less; he also feels responsible for his tenants’ safety, to the best of his ability. “I think my tenants would rather hear from me about incidents like this, rather then from rumors or reading it in the news.”
Chances are, your tenants are going to hear about crimes in their neighborhoods. Police will generally share this information with property owners and managers, and the victim will often tell friends and family. Disclosing this information when you have it builds trust and encourages open communication between you and your tenants. After all, why should tenants tell you about criminal activity if you don’t tell them? There is really no downside to full disclosure!