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Tenants harmed by intruders can sue their landlords for lax security in apartment buildings, New York's highest court decided Tuesday.

In a ruling that runs counter to a recent trend limiting landlord liability, the Court of Appeals said unanimously that apartment owners have an obligation to take "minimal precautions to protect tenants from foreseeable harm." That includes taking such steps as having working locks on entrances and exits to keep intruders out of buildings, the judges said.

"We are talking about basic safety, we are not talking about anything extraordinary here," said Susan Xenarios of the Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of tenants in the case. "We understand that locks get broken and things happen, but management should be fixing them as fast as they get broken."

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