How to track crime in your neighborhood, housing lawyer shares legal obligations for landlords to maintain safe living spaces

Landlords are legally obligated to maintain safe common areas in apartments and duplexes
It was a scary situation for one Charlotte family and they say it could have been avoided if they'd been told that the house was previously targeted.
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 6:02 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - WBTV is on your side getting legal advice after a Northwest Charlotte family’s home was shot into earlier this week.

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Five people were inside a northwest Charlotte home when someone fired several shots at the residence early Wednesday morning.

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), the shooting happened around 1:30 a.m. in the 700 block of Coy Court, not far from the intersection of Oakdale Road and Brookshire Boulevard.

The family told WBTV off-camera that they moved in in June and learned Wednesday morning that the home was the center of a shooting in 2021. The family says they wish the property management group would’ve disclosed the past crimes before signing their lease.

Neighbors said the house has been targeted in the past when the previous owners still lived there. They believe the people who previously lived there were involved in gang activity.

WBTV contacted the company Bottomline Property Management, but they have not returned our request for comment.

WBTV took the family’s concerns to a housing attorney to see if landlords and sellers are legally obligated to disclose to potential residents if a crime has happened at the property in the past.

“I’m not aware of a law that would require a landlord to notify a tenant moving in about past crimes in the area,” said Isaac Sturgill who is the housing practice group manager at NC Legal Aid.

According to NC General Statutes - Chapter 42 Article 5: Landlord to provide fit premises, landlords are required to maintain safe common areas in shared living spaces such as apartments and duplexes. These common areas include but are not limited to parking lots, gymnasiums, and resident lounges.

“I think that security cameras would be on way to ensure that those common areas are safe, but it could be other things too, such as making sure there is adequate locks on the doors and lighting, things like that,” Sturgill said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police has an online interactive crime map with public data where residents can check to see crimes in their neighborhood and possibly search for past crimes at their new or current homes.

The crime map includes the date, time, type of offense, and incident report number.

Through this tool, the interactive crime map listed the shooting at Coy Ct. as an aggravated assault with a gun.

WBTV found the same crime listed at the 6700 block of Wagon Oak Road on Oct. 4. WBTV requested the incident report. According to the police report, an unknown suspect shot into a home with 16 people inside shortly after 12:30 a.m.

Sturgill believes the interactive crime map can be used to help families see past crimes near the home.

“I think that if families are concerned about the area they’re moving into, then that’s a great resource to use to where they’re not having to rely on the landlord to disclose it to them, they can just look at public information themselves and see what the history is in that area,” he said.

Sturgill says if prospective renters do ask their landlord about previous crimes, they should document everything which can help if they need to break their lease.

“They can ask and if the landlord does give them some type of assurance that there hasn’t been any criminal activity there in some amount of time or if the landlord represents to them that it is a safe area and that ends up not being true, that may give the family some cause against the landlord to try and get out of their lease based on the landlord misrepresenting something to them, but if they don’t ask them, I don’t think the landlord has an obligation to disclose that upfront,” he said.

Police have not made any arrests in Wednesday’s shooting on Coy Court, but detectives are searching for a white four-door car that was in the area at the time the shooting happened.