If 2 bikes stolen from a shared garage, is the landlord responsible to replace them?

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If 2 bikes stolen from a shared garage, is the landlord responsible to replace them?

My bicycle and that of another tenant’s was stolen from inside the garage. Our tenancy agreement states that the landlord accepts no responsibility for items left in the garage yet the bikes were stolen because the garage door was faulty and kept opening of its own accord. The landlords took months to fix it and failed to notify anyone of the issue. They were repeatedly made aware of the issue and concern re: safety of the bikes specifically highlighted to them by the one tenant who reported the issue. Do I have recourse for them to replace the bikes as they were both negligent and incompetent?

Asked on April 3, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Because there was an actual defect, affecting security, of which the landlord was aware (you put him on notice) and which he did not correct, it is possible that he might be liable for the bikes. Ordinarily, a landlord is not the insurer of his tenant's belongings; however, when the landlord is negligent in providing basic security or maintenance, like defective locks (or in this case, a door opening of its own accord), it is possible to hold the landlord responsible.

However, if the landlord will not pay voluntarily, you would have to sue him for the money. To win, you would have to convince the court 1) that the door was defective in the way you describe; 2) you had put the landlord on notice of it and given him adequate time to correct the problem; and 3) the theft was due to the door opening (show the causal link). You would have to show or prove this by a "preponderance of the evidence," or that it was more likely than not.


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