Most condominium complexes are overseen by a private board. This board is usually made up of condo residents who are voted in. While condo board members are generally unpaid volunteers, this doesn’t mean that they are immune to being sued. All home owners’ associations (HOAs) have the potential to be sued, as they are held to the same standard as for-profit organizations.
Suits against home owners’ associations can touch a range of issues, from fund mismanagement to slip-and-fall lawsuits to disputes with contractors and residents. We’ll look into the most common condo association lawsuits in a bit more detail here:
Injuries Sustained on the Premises
One of the most common lawsuits against condominium boards is from a person who sustains an injury on the property due to negligence or alleged negligence. The “slip and fall” (or some form of it) is the most prevalent specific type of incident in this category. If the walkways are not kept clear and safe for those who come on to the premises, the condo complex association may be held liable.
This type of suit could be brought by one of the condo owners or one of their family members, roommates or subletters. However, a slip and fall type of suit may also be brought by one of their guests or visitors. A service person or other professional who is invited on to the premises may also potentially sue the board for this reason.
Fortunately for the home owners’ association, this type of lawsuit is usually covered by their liability insurance policy. Generally, the board will contact the insurance company and the matter will either settle out of court or require a trial. A personal injury claim could make the HOA’s insurance premiums rise substantially.
Condo Complex Employees
For condominium properties that are large enough to need employees, potential legal exposure is increased. Employees may be required for various roles including maintenance, landscaping and making routine exterior repairs. While these tasks can be handled by service providers on a contract basis, in some cases the size and scope of the facility makes hiring employees the more financially sound decision.
Of course, employees must then be hired, managed, and in some cases, disciplined or fired. All employers are required to follow Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and never discriminate while hiring based upon criteria like race, gender, religion, age or country of origin. While employers are allowed to hire for the skills and abilities required for the open position, any act of discrimination could open them up to a lawsuit.
The behavior and level of professionalism by employees – or lack thereof – could also open up a home owners’ association to a lawsuit. Inappropriate behavior by an employee to or near a resident could open up the condo board to a lawsuit for negligent hiring or failing to address the issue efficiently or adequately. Condo associations should have the proper insurance to cover such issues if they choose to hire employees.
Home owner’s associations who hire contractors may also be sued for a variety of reasons. The most common suit in this area tends to be related to defective work. If the work done by the contractor is found to be insufficient or faulty, it’s possible that a resident could sue the condo board for how this affects their lives.
Of course, the condominium board can then in turn sue the contractor for their faulty work. It can get even more complex from here, as the contractor has the right to counter-sue. One of the possible reasons for a counter-suit could be a claim that the work they did was just fine, but that it was not properly maintained by the condominium.
Resident Versus Board
Another possible type of HOA lawsuit involves the board versus a resident. In this case, a resident may fail to pay their agreed-upon dues for a variety of reasons. The board may move to recover dues, but in some cases get hit with a countersuit. Board members may also be individually sued by residents; for this reason, they are often covered by a Directors & Officers policy.
Clearly, there are a variety of ways that legal action can arise related to condo insurance and home owners’ association boards. The best protection of rights in any legal case is proven, professional representation. Seek the counsel of a qualified attorney if you are ever faced with any of these legal situations.