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Abstract

Over the past several decades, two of the most significant developments in landlord-tenant law have been the establishment of the implied warranty of habitability and the advent of landlord tort liability for third-party criminal acts against tenants. For the most part, the implied warranty of habitability and landlord liability for third-party criminal acts were created by separate movements. Consequently, the vast majority of courts have predicated landlord liability for third-party criminal acts against tenants on tort law or on contract law principles. However, the Supreme Court of New Jersey in Trentacost v. Brussel established a landlord duty to protect tenants from third-party criminal acts based on the implied warranty of habitability.

This Comment argues that the implied warranty of habitability provides a flexible means of establishing landlord liability for third-party criminal acts against tenants. Unlike the tort or contract approaches, the implied warranty of habitability approach is narrowly tailored to landlord-tenant law. However, the implied warranty approach failed to gain the support of courts and commentators in the wake of Trentacost, in large part because the Trentacost court refused to consider foreseeability, thus effectively creating a strict liability standard that was seen as unfair to landlords. This Comment calls for the implied warranty of habitability combined with a foreseeability requirement as an effective, flexible, and fair approach for establishing landlord liability for third-party criminal acts against tenants. The addition of a foreseeability requirement addresses the fairness concerns that undermined the influence of the Trentacost implied warranty of habitability approach.