A homeowners’ association, or HOA, does a lot to manage and maintain the common areas of a development. The precise duties of an HOA can vary depending on the type of neighborhood or building, and the amenities on its grounds, but these associations have an overall duty to act diligently and in good faith.
One key component of an HOA’s responsibilities relates to the repair and maintenance of safety and security equipment. This could include street lights, entry gates and surveillance cameras. When an HOA fails to properly care for these aspects, it could make the community more vulnerable to crime.
Some common criminal activity that may occur within the boundaries of an HOA ranges from home burglaries and robberies, to assaults and car vandalism and theft. In some cases, homeowners may try to take legal action against the HOA for crimes that occur.
What Is An HOA’s Duty To Residents?
The rules governing HOAs vary by state; however, these associations generally do not owe their residents a duty of protection from the criminal acts carried out by third parties which take place on the association’s premises. This rule stems from the principle that HOAs are technically not insurers.
Nevertheless, this has not stopped HOA residents from bringing cases against their associations. Even if the association can ultimately not be held liable to the residents for harm caused by criminal intruders, it can still take considerable time and money to resolve or defend such cases.
There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if the criminal activity of a third party was able to occur because of the condition of the grounds of the HOA, the association may be held liable. This could be a result of doors that do not close fully, broken entry systems or garage doors, malfunctioning lighting, holes in fences or broken door locks. Therefore, it is important for HOAs to ensure their premises are properly maintained, particularly when it comes to their safety features.
Another area of exception where HOAs could be held liable relates to cases where the association created some type of hazard that did not exist previously. Therefore, HOAs must make a strong effort to avoid creating areas where crimes can occur. For example, adding certain types of landscaping could provide cover for intruders and make it easier for them to prey on an HOA’s residents.
Although HOAs are not generally held responsible for crimes that take place on their grounds, there are still many gray areas. A safe course of action is to hire security to help deter or prevent crime from occurring in the first place.
How Can HOAs Improve Security?
There are several ways that homeowners’ associations can improve the security of their communities.
Security equipment can be installed on an HOA’s property to monitor low-level crimes including vandalism, rules violations, property damage and trespassing. Locked entrances, strong lighting, alarms and surveillance cameras can all be useful, but they should be used in conjunction with security personnel to provide well-rounded protection.
It is also important for the HOA to consult with security companies on the placement of security cameras to ensure that they do not violate homeowners’ privacy and place the association at risk of invasion of privacy claims. Moreover, it is important that any security features installed are routinely inspected to ensure they remain in proper working condition.
Homeowners’ associations can hire security officers to supplement security equipment and provide maximum protection to their residents. A large HOA may choose to hire several officers to ensure that common areas are able to be monitored while patrols are made throughout the community.
A smaller HOA may find that stationing one or two security officers at a front desk or gate to monitor those who enter and exit the premises is sufficient.
Using a professional security firm is the best approach for HOAs. This eliminates many of the responsibilities associated with hiring officers directly. Security firms are responsible for insuring and training their officers. This should also include meeting all state specific requirements for security training, which will be particularly beneficial if your HOA decides to hire armed security. Security firms complete extensive background checks as well as drug testing on their personnel.
Reach Out To Our HOA Security Professionals
If your homeowner’s association is considering options to prevent crime and minimize risks, contact the residential security professionals at American Protection Group. At APG, we offer advanced technology and highly trained specialists to ensure the highest standard of security for your community.