That's Criminal! Dealing with Sensative Situations

 Serving on a condo board has its challenges—mostly of a relatively mundane, everyday sort, like how to pay for new carpet in  the clubhouse, or what kind of flowers to put in the new beds out front.  Occasionally however, a much more sensitive issue comes along, involving  potentially volatile legal or security situations, like residents with  restraining orders or serious criminal histories. How such issues are handled  is of crucial importance, and can impact not just a community's administration,  but its morale, cohesion, and ultimate value.  

 Restraining Orders & Other Security Issues

 Experts agree that 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 immediately, and take any further 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 may also define the obligations of the board  to a certain extent.  

 “An association screens all potential sale/lease applicants and performs  background checks on all prospective residents,” says Marcy Kravit, a property manager with Atlantic | Pacific Management in  Boca Raton. “If a restraining order has been filed by a resident, it is the responsibility of  that resident to provide documentation to management. Management will alert the  front desk to prohibit access to the individual against whom the restraining  order has been filed. We are responsible for the safety and well-being of all  residents, and are here to protect those who fear for their own safety. Florida  has four separate categories for restraining orders—domestic, repeat, dating and sexual—and none of them are taken lightly.”  

 “It’s a fact of life the larger your building, the larger your city, the more you’ll have to deal with things like acrimonious divorces, restraining orders and  felony convictions,” says Roberto C. Blanch, a shareholder attorney with the law firm of Siegfried  Rivera Lerner De La Torre & Sobel, P.A., in Coral Gables. “It happens often when we represent buildings where one or the other spouse or  partner comes to the building and serves a restraining order and expects the  association to take some action to enforce the order. But not all of these  orders apply to the association—so the question becomes what obligation does the association have to enforce the  restraining order? It is usually my opinion that unless it names the  association, my recommendation is not to do anything.”  

 Jeffrey Ulm, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, and CEO/president of Association Services of  Florida, an Associa Company based in Miramar agrees. “The association is generally not notified formally of any type of domestic or  felony issue, since the association is generally not named in any of the suits  when filed with the court,” he says. “Aside from discussing the issue directly with those people affected, the only  real way an association may become aware of legal issues is by checking the  court records once they're notified that a domestic issue is pending. Still,  that means the association is delving into an area it really has no business  being in, unless the association’s documents give it that authority.”  


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