Keep Log of Door and Lock Repairs to Boost Safety, Reduce Liability
If a staff member or tenant reports that a door or lock at a building or unit entrance is broken, you may think you can wait until morning or even a few days to repair this condition. But that would be a mistake. Any delay leaves tenants at risk and increases the likelihood of your being held liable if a crime occurs. If an intruder breaks into a building or unit at your site and attacks a tenant, the tenant could blame you.
To avoid this scenario, fix broken doors or locks as soon as you learn of them. And to show that you’ve made repairs quickly, keep a written record of all door and lock complaints and repairs. This can help you protect your site from liability for crimes involving broken doors or locks by giving you the proof you’ll need to show that you acted quickly to repair the broken door or lock. To help you keep track of repairs we’ve provided a Model Form: Use Maintenance Door and Lock Log to Track Repair Requests, below, which you can adapt for your building.
Good Records, Maintenance Can Defeat Negligence Claim
A maintenance log came to the defense of the New York City Housing Authority in one case. A tenant was assaulted in the lobby of her apartment building at around 5 a.m. The tenant said the intruder, who wasn’t a tenant of the building or the development, gained entry because of an inoperative front entrance door lock. The tenant sued for damages for personal injuries on the basis that owners have a duty to take minimal precautions to protect tenants from the reasonably foreseeable criminal conduct of third parties.
The housing authority was able to produce records showing that it had repaired the entrance door lock the day before the tenant was assaulted and had received no additional complaints about the lock after that time. The court dismissed the lawsuit, saying that the repair records showed that it wasn’t negligent in repairing broken entrance doors and locks. The records showed that the housing authority repaired broken entrance doors and locks quickly, often within minutes of being notified that they were broken [Lester v. NYC Hous. Authority, March 2002].
However, in another case, a court found that the housing authority may be liable for an attack at another one of its sites. According to testimony, the street-level front door of the victim’s apartment building wasn’t equipped with a working door lock. The witness testified that while the front door of the apartment building was equipped with a lock, it had been visibly broken for many months and that anyone could enter the building by merely pushing on the door.
For this site, the supervisor testified that there were daily inspection procedures and high-priority work tickets were issued for any necessary repairs. The housing authority requested a judgment without a trial on this basis, but the victim’s estate opposed the request on the grounds that daily inspection reports established the inoperability of the outer door for 13 days in July 2007, 16 days in August 2007, and 13 days in September 2007 without there being corresponding repair tickets. They also submitted crime statistics for the area and transcripts of witness hearing and deposition testimony that the door lock was continually broken [Scurry v. NYC Hous. Authority, January 2021].
What to Include in Log
Keep a written record of all door and lock repair requests. Each time a staff member or tenant reports a broken door or lock, make an entry in the log. To lower your chances of being held liable in a lawsuit, make sure you or one of your maintenance staff logs every door and lock repair request and responds to each request quickly, within a few hours, if possible. The log should be setup with the following easy-to-use format:
Date and time of repair request. Be sure to include the year when you notate the date, and whether the time is a.m. or p.m.
Who reported problem. Note the name of the tenant or staff member who reported the problem.
Nature and location of problem. Be specific about the exact location and the nature of the problem. Is the lock loose? Does the door lock? Is the lock or door at the main entrance or a tenant’s unit front door?
Staff response. Describe the specific action taken by maintenance or other staff to address the problem.
Date and time of repair. Again, include the year and whether the repair time is a.m. or p.m.
Staff member’s name. Have the staff member who completed the repair enter his or her name.
See The Model Tools For This Article
|Use Maintenance Door and Lock Log to Track Repair Requests|