Q&A: Community Safety

Q “If an HOA or condo board heard about the potential threat of a possible rapist  in the area but did nothing to add security to the parking area and a resident  was raped, is that HOA or condo association or board liable? What if that same  HOA or condo board hears about a possible rapist in the area and adds security  cameras in an effort to deter or catch a rapist and neither happen, yet there  is a rape, is that HOA or condo board or association liable?”  

 — Worried about Security  

A “A question was raised concerning an association’s responsibility to provide security to its members, in a case where the  association is aware that a sexual predator may be targeting the community,” states Stuart Lieberman, principal of the law firm of Lieberman & Blecher, P.C., in Princeton. The question was posed as to when the association may bear legal responsibility  if somebody is attacked.  

 “While case law varies, it is often true that associations have a duty to insure  that a community is safe. While there is much latitude that is afforded to an association in terms of  handling possible criminal threats and risks, as a general rule an association  cannot put its “head in the sand” and make believe that such risks are non-existent.  

 “If an association has knowledge that there is general criminal activity in the  community, it needs to be proactive and take reasonable measures to avoid any  criminal action. What is reasonable depends upon the circumstances and the nature of the  potential threat.  

 “The question raised suggests that the association was aware that sexual predator  activity was occurring within the community and that in fact an assault  transpired. The liability of the association may very well pivot on the nature of the  knowledge that the association had and the kinds of proactive activities taken  by the association in response.  

 “In the case that was presented one must inquire as to what the association  really knew in advance, whether the association had the ability to corroborate  the allegations of sexual predator activity, and if under all relevant  circumstances, the association provided a reasonable response.  

 “In conclusion, an association may very well bear some legal responsibility if it  has knowledge of sexual predator activity and fails to act in a reasonable  manner. At the end of the day, the question of what constitutes advance knowledge and  what constitutes a reasonable response would likely control how a court views  an association’s potential liability in this terribly sad situation.”    

 

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