Can a tenant move out early because of criminal activity at apartment?

The short answer is “no.” A landlord has no duty to protect against criminal activity beyond taking reasonable precautions against it unless the lease places a burden of providing security from criminal activity on the landlord. Investigate the apartment complex before you sign on the dotted line.

Several burglaries, break ins, and even arson had occurred at Tenant’s apartment complex. Tenant contacted Landlord about the problems, and all Landlord did was install a few new locks on the common doors. Tenant advised Landlord that he was terminating the rental agreement a month early, reasoning that Landlord’s failure to address the criminal problems was constructively (in other words, in actual effect) evicting Tenant from the Apartment. Landlord kept Tenant’s security deposit (to make up for Tenant’s failure to pay last month’s rent) and Tenant sued. The Trial Court ruled in Tenant’s favor, holding that Landlord’s failure to address criminal problems amounted to constructive eviction. Landlord appealed.

The Tenth District Court of Appeals in Franklin County held in a reported case that a landlord is not an insurer of a tenant against criminal activity by third persons. So long as the landlord takes reasonable security precautions, criminal activity in the area does not rise to the level of constructive eviction allowing tenant to terminate the rental agreement. The Court reasoned as follows:

Generally, . . . where the lease does not place the burden of providing security from criminal activity, the tenant may expect only that reasonable precautions will be taken by the landlord. Nothing more than reasonable security arises from the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

Sciascia v. Riverpark Apartments (1981), 3 Ohio App. 3d 164.