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.”