Picture this scenario: One day, you’re taking your kids to your residential community’s playground. You sit on a bench while watching your kids enjoy themselves. Then, all of a sudden, one of your kids falls and suffers a broken bone.
Once your kid has been treated and your shock has worn off, you’d possibly think of calling an experienced civil law attorney to ask whether you can sue your homeowner’s association (HOA) for negligence.
But should the HOA really be liable for your kid’s injury? When you consider that it was their duty to ensure the safety of the playground, it’s easy to point fingers at them. But what if your child got injured for a reason that had nothing to do with the playground’s conditions?
When you or a visitor of yours suffers an injury in your residential community’s common areas, it is worth noting that the HOA isn’t automatically liable. Likewise, other inconveniences such as not being allowed to use a specific paint color on your exteriors, or to erect a specific fencing material, don’t necessarily mean that your HOA is being corrupt or abusive. Remember that HOA is the governing body of your residential community, so they are allowed to implement rules and penalize those who disobey them.
But of course, such power also potentially makes them either abusive or neglectful. Below are the instances and conditions where you can hold the HOA legally liable:
1. Injuries that Resulted From Poorly Maintained Common Areas
Common areas in a residential area include elevators, playgrounds, and parks. Using the example above, the first question you must ask before suing your HOA is whether they were in control of the playground, to which the answer is obviously yes. But that’s just the beginning of determining if they are truly liable.
Secondly, the injury of your kid should result from a safety hazard in the playground. For instance, there were no railings on top of the slide, or the handles of the seesaw were coming off. But if your kid got injured because they were running too fast and their slippers have snapped, the HOA couldn’t be liable for that.
What if the playground’s terrain was uneven, which caused your kid to lose balance while running? That might be a safety hazard that came from the HOA’s neglect of their maintenance duties. But if their defense team has found that the hazard on the terrain is still within the realms of acceptability, then your case against them might be weak.
Basically, the HOA is liable for injuries that occur in areas under their control but have failed to care for. So if you slip on a wet marble-floored clubhouse because there was no “Slippery When Wet” sign, you may sue them. But if the accident is your own fault, or was caused by circumstances completely out of the HOA’s control, then the HOA is not liable.
2. Remodeling Disputes that Violate the CC&Rs
The Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, or simply CC&Rs, are a set of rules all neighborhoods must abide by. They also outline the rules the HOA may and may not impose. These include remodeling limitations, such as banning specific exterior paint colors, fencing materials, or certain DIY jobs.
Most HOAs require a licensed professional to oversee and complete a remodeling project. They will also inspect your property to see if the changes meet their standards of quality and if they comply with the rules and regulations of the community.
However, a power-tripping HOA may also bend the rules just to assert authority. They may insist that you are not allowed to add an extra bedroom because it ruins uniformity. The CC&R, on the other hand, has no say and lets you add the bedroom. If the HOA continues to harass you, you may have to sue them before commencing your remodeling project.
3. Leaving Maintenance Issues Neglected
The association dues you’re paying regularly should be used to maintain the common areas and repair maintenance issues. Hence, if your condo building’s elevator has been out of order for ages now, you have the right to complain to the board, or a file lawsuit if they’ve already been notified, but continue to act negligently.
To check if your HOA is doing a poor job at maintaining common areas, take a stroll in those places and observe their conditions. See if the clubhouse’s damage from last year’s typhoon is still there. Check if the playground has rusting equipment that may cause tetanus. If you have a community gym, see if the fitness equipment pieces are in working order. If you found signs of blatant neglect on everything, you may sue the HOA.
Overall, if you’ve proven that the HOA has been breaching their duties despite the hefty fees you pay them, file charges to put them in the hot seat. After all, you deserve a safe and well-maintained community after paying your dues without missing a beat.