After almost twenty years of representing homeowners associations and condominium associations, it continues to surprise me when homeowners look to their association to investigate or even punish for criminal activity that occurs in the community.
Our association clients get calls from homeowners insisting that the association take action to prevent car break-ins, vandalism, loitering in public areas, theft, speeding, reckless driving and even marital fights. Just recently we had the membership of an association very upset with the board of director’s lack of action when one homeowner fired four bullets at another homeowner (thankfully missing each time).
In most cases the answer to criminal activity is to call the police. Associations only have authority to enforce their governing documents – The Declaration of Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions, Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, Policies, etc. Very rarely, only in a handful of cases in the Carolinas have I seen language purports to allow enforcement of “unlawful” conduct. Even when that language exists in the associations governing documents there is a real question of whether or not the association should take action.
With all of that said, it may be possible that the conduct is criminal activity and also violates one of the association’s provisions in the governing documents. In that case the association can take steps to enforce those association governing document provisions that were violated. The association’s enforcement options are likely limited to monetary fines against the owner and property or possibly a very expensive lawsuit for the association to seek an injunction to enforce the associations governing document provision. The association does not have the ability to “get those criminals out of the neighborhood” as many homeowners expect and demand.
Of course, an association would have a right to pursue criminal charges if common area of the association was the victim of the crime. For example, if someone spray paints the tennis courts with graffiti or steals pool equipment there are civil and criminal penalties available to the association.
If you have questions regarding options of the association or of your individual options regarding criminal activity, please contact one of the attorneys at Law Firm Carolinas.