Serving on a condo board has its challenges—not least of which is dealing with potentially volatile legal or security situations. Such scenarios might involve anything from residents with orders of protection or criminal histories to buyers or residents who are listed on sex offender registries. How board members and managers handle these types of issues impacts the entire building or community—so it's vital to know what to say, what not to say, and how best to act when faced with a touchy situation.
Restraining Orders & Security
If a board member or manager is advised by a resident that a crime is going to be or has been committed, he or she should advise the resident to call the police and take direction from law enforcement authorities.
Generally speaking, there is legal principle that one party is not liable for the criminal actions of another (absent collusion, agency or the like). However, the condominium documents, to a certain extent, may also define the obligations of the board.
“I have a homeowner in one of my associations who claims she was being stalked,” says Joseph Balzamo, president of Alliance Property Management in Morristown. “She wanted the HOA to protect her [by hiring additional security staff], but the association didn’t have the money. It was decided that if the homeowner wanted extra security she’d have to arrange for it herself or if she felt she was in danger, to call the police, because that is their job. The association is under no obligation to provide a homeowner extra security unless it’s in the home owner association’s governing documents, which I have never seen.”
“Building administrators are usually not aware of restraining orders or felony convictions within their building,” says Stephen B. Kotzas, a managing partner with the law firm of Berry, Sahradnik, Kotzas & Benson in Toms River. “It’s not readily available information, because a lot of those issues aren’t even public. Restraining orders are obtained in family court and usually are not accessible to the general public. The way [building administrators] may find out is usually via complaints from adjacent owners—usually noise complaints or other nuisances.”