California apartment complex owners are required to secure their properties from foreseeable criminal activity, including sexual assault. Depending on the circumstances, the apartment complex could be liable, whether the sexual assault occurs inside an apartment unit, a common area, or on building grounds.

You may be able to hold the apartment complex or its operator liable if you are able to prove that they knew or should have known about the possibility of sexual assault and neglected to implement appropriate safeguards. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best legal course of action. 

What Constitutes Sexual Assault in California?

As defined by California Penal Code Section 243.4, sexual assault involves touching another person’s intimate parts against their will for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse. Sexual assault can be charged as both a criminal and civil offense depending on the circumstances. 

Criminal and civil lawsuits are separate actions with differing penalties. Criminal convictions may result in incarceration, probation, fines, sex offender registry, or other punishment. Civil cases seek monetary compensation for physical, mental, and financial damage resulting from the assault. 

Reach out to an experienced civil litigation attorney to help explain the differences and how to seek the compensation. If you are unsure whether or not your experience constitutes sexual assault, the experienced team at Boucher LLP is happy to listen to the circumstances of your claim and help you understand your rights. 

Law that Allows a Survivor to Hold the Apartment Complex Liable for Sexual Assault 

CIV. CODE § 1714 imposes a duty on-a property to maintain a safe premises for its tenants. What the property owner needs to do to fulfill that duty will depend on the likelihood that it could have anticipated the actual or potential harm to you. 

Other California laws impose specific obligations on property owners to make their premises safe and habitable.

For example, CIV. CODE § 1941.3 requires landlords to equip doors with locking mechanisms in common areas. This includes lobbies, stairways, elevators, shared laundry rooms, hallways, backyards, and parking areas. 

Landlord Duty to Protect Against Other Tenants

Landlords are not required to screen prospective tenants’ criminal records before allowing them to occupy the complex. Many landlords use third-party consumer reports to screen criminal records, but because California law prohibits consumer reports from including arrests, indictments, misdemeanors that did not result in a conviction, and convictions from more than seven years prior, landlords may not have all the information they need to determine a person’s potential risk to others.

Moreover, landlords are prohibited from refusing to rent to a potential tenant, or evicting a current tenant solely due to suspected criminal activity. However, if a landlord knows or should know that a tenant poses a threat to another tenant and does not take steps to prevent it, they may be liable for that harm. 

Considerations for Holding an Apartment Complex Liable for Sexual Assault

If the property is in an area that has particularly high rates of criminal activity, the landlord may be responsible for additional security measures, such as locked entry gates, extra lighting, or video surveillance.

In addition, if a landlord has communicated that certain security measures exist, but they in fact do not, they may be more likely to be found liable for sexual assault in the apartment complex . For example, if the landlord advertises that the property has a video surveillance system.

when in reality it does not, the sexual assault survivor may have a stronger case. The survivor must be able to demonstrate that the promised security feature would likely have prevented the assault from happening. Every case is different, so it is important to speak with a qualified attorney about your potential claims and the types of damages that may apply to your circumstances 

Process for Holding an Apartment Complex Liable for Sexual Assault

When a landlord has breached their duty to prevent foreseeable sexual assault, a tenant may recover for their bodily injuries, emotional harm, and any property damage. This type of claim may be submitted to the landlord’s insurance company, or it may require a lawsuit.

An experienced attorney can help you determine the actual value of your claim to avoid accepting a settlement offer for less than what you are entitled to. 

Depending on the circumstances of the assault, you may be eligible to receive compensation for medical expenses and lost wages as well as pain and suffering and emotional distress, among other things. In instances of extreme negligence on the part of the property owner, a tenant may be able to recover punitive damage.

These funds are more than the normal damages owed and are intended to punish the defendant for their behavior. Speak to an attorney to discuss your potential damages.

Contact a California Sexual Assault Attorney

It is important to hold property owners accountable for their negligence. The attorneys at Boucher, LLP have extensive experience fighting for survivors of sexual assault regardless of the circumstance. We can help you hold an apartment complex liable for sexual assault. Contact us today to schedule your free case consultation.