By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Some of the HOA reports I find the most maddening are those that mess with the rights of its residents. And in this case, Julianna Ferguson, a single mother residing in Sunrise Ridge HOA, has a serious need to protect herself and her child from harm.
But the HOA is now threatening to remove security cameras she installed outside her unit, even though board members had already granted her permission to install them, under the circumstance.
“I’m angry and I’m scared,” says Julianna Ferguson. “I basically fear for the life of me and my child because…they’re taking away my right to protect myself and my family.”
Julianna has reason to be afraid.
“The restraining order was actually just granted in April.”
The order was filed against a resident who Julianna says has been a serious problem for years.
But that’s not her only security problem in the Sunrise Ridge HOA on the eastside of town.
“Someone came into the garage while I was home and scratched my truck from front to back on both sides all the way down to the metal.”
So she had cameras installed on the garage and front porch.
Julianna says she spoke to two of her HOA board members who didn’t see the cameras as a problem.
But recently she got a letter saying the cameras couldn’t be attached to the building. Julianna doesn’t understand why given a court recognizes there’s a serious threat.
Apparently, Sunrise Ridge is a condominium association, where the association owns the exterior of units. But what responsibility does the association have to provide a reasonable level of safety for its residents? And what liability would the association face, should Ferguson be the victim of property or violent crime?
Domestic violence, neighbor on neighbor violence are unfortunately more common than we would like to believe. Who can blame anyone for taking extra precautions to prevent and record criminal action whenever possible?
This is especially relevant for associations with private security services.
By the way, although associations can certainly call police after a crime is committed, or while in progress, they will likely have to pay additional fees to their local police department for security patrols. Sounds crazy, and unfair, given the taxes we all pay, doesn’t it? Yet I know of many HOAs that have contracts with local police to add security patrols and traffic control.
Below I have provided several links to articles on security in HOAs. Please take the time to read these important articles, and share them with your neighbors and association boards.
When officers arrived at the home on Osprey Trail last March, they found Mike and Sabrina Ferry, their hands and feet bound with zipties.
The pair had been watching TV in their living room that Tuesday evening when men wearing masks and brandishing handguns busted into their house. The men stole cash and jewelry and the keys to the Ferrys’ car.
Theirs was the fourth Collier County home invasion in a five-week span.
Now the couple is suing their homeowner’s association, saying the Estuary at Grey Oaks neighborhood promised a secure community and failed to deliver despite knowledge of the recent home invasions going on in the county.
Read more here: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/crime/couple-sues-hoa-over-home-invasion-robbery-ep-1006993333-335528421.html
Historically in Florida, there typically was no liability for such losses or injuries on behalf of the HOAs as such crimes were usually not foreseeable (unless there were previous crimes committed within the community which were not reported to the owners), gated communities were not viewed as providing “security” to their residents (unless the communities advertised and held themselves out as providing security lending owners to believe that the community was actually providing them security), and as long as maintenance of “known” breaches of the communities perimeter boundaries were taken care of in the normal course of business.
However, in the recent Supreme Court of Florida case of Sanders v. ERP Operating Limited Partnership (ERP), decided on Feb. 25, 2015, liability may attach to a HOA if it fails to maintain its existing perimeter infrastructure even if the victims of the crime living in the community apparently knows the criminal perpetrators and let them into their home.
Read more here: http://www.naplesnews.com/business/rob-samouce-are-gated-communities-liable-for-security-ep-1057717978-330660131.html
Don’t Just Say No
While boards are not required to implement specific security measures, they should approve reasonable requests from owners to implement security measures of their own. A 20-year-old California case (Frances T. v. Village Green H.O. Association), still cited today, highlights the importance of this advice.
The plaintiff homeowner, concerned about a rash of burglaries and thefts in the area, asked the board repeatedly for permission to install additional lighting near her unit. The board had been discussing security concerns for several months, but hadn’t acted on them and didn’t respond to this owner’s request, so she installed the lighting on her own. That drew an immediate response from the board, which ordered the owner to remove the unauthorized lighting and rejected her request to leave it in place until the board could propose an alternative.
The owner complied, but because her supplemental lights were wired into the same circuit as the association’s existing lighting (which the owner felt was inadequate), disconnecting the owner’s lights left the area without any lighting at all. Shortly after that, the owner was raped in this darkened area, and a court found the association as an entity and the board members individually to have been negligent and liable for damages as a result.
Read more here: https://meeb.com/security-concerns-are-understandable-but-a-community-associations-obligations-are-limited/