Should we hold apartment complexes accountable for crimes committed within the property?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than two dozen Memphis apartment complexes are the target of a series of lawsuits.

The issue is what the victims of violence, their survivors and attorneys said are unsafe environments at the 30 complexes.

Attorney Walter Bailey is working on behalf of several families to hold 26 Memphis apartment complexes accountable for inadequate security, allowing violent crimes on their properties with no solution to stop it.

“When they do that they can get popped with a lawsuit, and that’s what we do,” Bailey said. “We represent people who have been shot, victims of sexual assault, who were murdered.”

So far in 2021, Memphis Police and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office have investigated homicides at more than 10 of the 26 apartment complexes Bailey is suing on behalf of victims and their families.

That includes the February murder of Memphis firefighter Terrence Taylor in the parking lot of Miller Creek Apartments.

RELATED: SCSO: Man arrested in connection with the shooting death of a Memphis firefighter

Aaron Neglia is another attorney representing victims of crime at apartment complexes in Memphis.

“Right now, I have four active homicide cases in federal court for three different apartment complexes in Memphis,” Neglia said.

Neglia represents the family of Jordyn Washington, the 8-year-old girl shot and killed at the Highland Chateau Apartments late last year.

RELATED: 8-year-old girl was inside apartment when hit by bullet, MPD says

According to the City of Memphis Public Safety online database, in the last three years, there have been more than 40 assaults, nearly 10 thefts, and five break ins at the Highland Chateau Apartments.

According to the United States Fair Housing Act, there is nothing that requires landlords to disclose crime that’s happened on their property unless a tenant requests the crime stats.

However, in Memphis, there’s a way through the city’s online data hub to see the crime in and around an apartment complex or any home by typing in the address.

RELATED: MPD identifies suspect in 8-year-old girl’s murder

According to the American Apartment Owners Association in Tennessee, the Landlord-Tenant law states landlords must comply with building and housing codes that affect both health and safety.

Neglia began holding apartment complexes accountable for the violence after the June 2019 murder of Carrasha Teal.

RELATED: Woman rushed to hospital after being shot by man in Memphis neighborhood, police say

The family of Teal filed a lawsuit in January 2020.

While moving into her new apartment in the Waterview Apartments in Hickory Hill, a gunman shot and killed Teal.

Memphis Police arrested Terrell Craft, also a tenant at the Waterview Apartments for the crime.

According to court records, three months before Teal’s death, Craft allegedly shot several bullets into an apartment at Waterview with three people inside.

Bullets hit two people in the unit and police charged him with three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

“When we talk to the apartment complexes, a lot of the times they say they were not notified of the crimes, but you have a duty to monitor. Don’t you think that’s a problem that you don’t know what is going on with your apartment complex that you have over 300 criminal investigations or active crimes in the last two years,” Neglia remarked.

According to Law.com, landlords must take careful consideration of the crime in the area surrounding their rental properties and create and install a security system that is designed to counteract common crimes in the neighborhood.

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The two attorneys said the apartment complexes have a duty not only to protect but to notify tenants of violent and property crimes, according to the Tennessee Landlord-Tenant law.

Bailey and Neglia said holding apartment complexes accountable in court is a hard lesson for property owners if they don’t correct the culture of violence.

Neglia said he’s seen progress at one property.

“Now that we have these active litigation cases going on, Waterview has made changes to their property. They know they can’t just run the City of Memphis into the ground,” Neglia said.

FOX13 made calls to the 26 apartment complexes on Bailey’s list and several of them told us “no comment at this time” while a majority didn’t return our calls.

Calls to the Highland Chateau and Water View Apartments have not been returned.