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Placing barriers around an area is supposed to make it safer. In a gated community, gate codes and security personnel are supposed to control access and protect residents. Unfortunately, such communities aren’t always as safe as they claim. When someone does break in and cause harm, who is legally liable?

What Constitutes a Break-In?

A break-in (or “breaking and entering,” legally) is any unauthorized entry to a secured area using even the slightest degree of force (like pushing a door open). In a gated community, a break-in might be someone breaking or climbing over the fence, or it may be as simple as someone using a gate code given to them by a resident to gain unauthorized access.

Who Is at the Greatest Risk?

Because gated communities typically have wealthy residents, they are a common target for burglaries.¹ In addition to property crime, victims who come face-to-face with the criminals may be at risk of serious physical harm.

Robber trying open door with crowbar

Those who tend to be at the greatest risk in a gated community break-in include:

  • Those known to be out of town or on vacation
  • Those who don’t have home security systems
  • Those seen as easily intimidated or overpowered (such as senior citizens)
  • Individuals who live alone (research suggests that, in gated communities, the risk of property crime decreases as the number of household members aged 12 or older increases²)

Liability in a Gated Community Break-In

Gated communities promise residents a certain degree of security and safety, which means that they can be held liable if a break-in occurs as a result of their failure to uphold that promise.

Examples of cases in which a gated community may found be liable for a break-in include:

  • Poor gate maintenance or delayed repairs lead to physical weak spots.
  • Security staff are unqualified and are negligent in their duties.
  • The community fails to warn residents of local criminal activity.
  • Poor overall control of access on their part (lax rules about code sharing, not properly checking IDs, etc.) allows criminals to enter undetected.

What to Do if There’s Been a Break-In in Your Community

Use the following tips to protect yourself and your home:

  • If you don’t have a security system or there are “blind spots” that could be exploited, get those areas covered.
  • Be careful about sharing on social media. A post about an upcoming vacation tells criminals that you won’t be home.
  • During a burglary, don’t try to confront the criminals. Call 911 from a safe place as soon as possible.
  • If you’ve been hurt, get in touch with a personal injury attorney who can help you determine what your next steps should be.

If You’ve Been Injured in a Break-In, We Can Help

At Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., our personal injury lawyers help victims get the compensation they need to cover medical bills and other expenses after an injury. If you’ve been hurt as a result of a break-in in your gated community, call our personal injury law firm today at (713) 364-0723.

Sources:

  1. https://www.safety.com/four-reasons-gated-communities-are-less-secure/
  2. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e518/317ee3116b96eb8531b70abbcbfe382b8931.pdf

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Jonathan S. Harris and Matthew D. Shaffer are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Other attorneys are not board certified.  Principal office is located in Houston, Texas.