Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – January 18th, 2012 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – January 18th, 2012 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate is a weekly update on real estate law, with legal principles illustrated and explained by lawsuits from around the country. The topics are wide-ranging for appeal to a broad spectrum of readers including lawyers, homeowners, investors and the general public. Andrea Lee Negroni, a Washington DC attorney and legal writer with 25 years of experience in financial services and mortgage law, contributes the case summaries.

Followers of Real Cases in Real Estate will learn and be entertained by lawsuits involving nuisance, trespass, zoning violations, deed restrictions, title insurance, public utilities, mechanics liens, construction defects, adverse possession, foreclosure and eviction, divorce and marital property rights, tenants' rights, and more. Real Cases in Real Estate uncovers the unpredictable, amusing, and sometimes outrageous disputes between next-door neighbors, contractors and homeowners, condo boards and residents, real estate brokers and homebuyers, and zoning administrators and developers.

Each fully cited case summary highlights the essential law of the case and explains the principal legal theories and concepts relevant to the outcome. Plain language treatment makes Real Cases in Real Estate accessible to lawyers and laymen alike.

Whether you follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new and useful every week in Real Cases in Real Estate.

Updates for the Week of January 18th, 2012

Illinois Landlord Has No Legal Duty to Protect Tenant Against Unforeseeable Attack by a Third Party.

Robert Sanchez's negligence - based lawsuit against his landlord and the landlord's management agent resulted in a decision which describes the limitations on a landlord's duty to protect its tenants. In 2004, Sanchez was followed up the stairs and hit on the head by an unknown person who was apparently hiding in a vacant apartment in the building. It appears that the doors to the vacant apartment were unlocked on the night of the attack.

The testimony of various members of the management company indicated that the management company had the responsibility for hiring employees, showing vacant apartments, repairing and cleaning the building and collecting the rent, but providing security to tenants was not one of the management company's duties for the landlord. The absence of a duty to provide security to tenants meant that Sanchez lost his case. The general rule in Illinois is that "a landowner has no duty to protect others from criminal activities by third persons," although there are four categories of exceptions: (1) common carrier & passenger; (2) innkeeper and guest; (3) custodian and ward; and (4) business invitor and invitee. Even for situations falling within one of these exceptions, however, for liability to be imposed, the criminal attack must be reasonably foreseeable.

The case might have come out differently if the landlord had voluntarily taken steps to provide security for tenants and had been negligent in so doing. However, none of the trial testimony indicated that the landlord or management company failed to exercise reasonable care in managing the rental property. Moreover, the fact that the management company provided locks on the building and lights on the property is not equivalent to the assumption of a duty to secure the safety of tenants. Alternatively, if there had been previous attacks on tenants of which the management company or landlord was aware, the landlord's duty to Sanchez might have been greater. But without a voluntary assumption of security duties or a prior history of criminal attacks on the property, the landlord had no legal duty to Sanchez to protect him from the unforeseen and unfortunate attack by a third party.

Sanchez v. Wilmette Real Estate & Mgmt., Co., 2010 Ill. App. LEXIS 865 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 2010) [enhanced version available to subscribers / unenhanced version available from lexisONE Free Case Law].

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