Understanding Community Association Security Measures and Liabilities

Laura Manning-Hudson
April 15, 2024


A recent article from the Community Associations Institute in the organization’s excellent Ungated blog focused on important security and liability issues for associations. It discussed how communities can be exposed to legal liabilities for negligent security and crimes occurring on association property.

The article’s recommendations were culled from discussions with attorneys and panelists at CAI’s Community Association Law Seminar in Las Vegas in February. One of their primary recommendations was for directors to understand how the installation of cameras creates a perception that the association is actively monitoring them at all times.

The experts also advise associations to avoid using such terms as “security gates,” “security cameras” or “security guards,” as they can create misperceptions. Instead, they suggest using more appropriate terms like access gates, cameras, attendants and concierges.

The panelists also focused on the significance of requests and feedback from residents. If owners are asking for security measures such as better lighting, gates, cameras, etc., then boards of directors should act on those requests by adding them to meeting agendas for discussion and perhaps requesting quotes from vendors. If such input from the residents is ignored, it could potentially expose the association to liability if an incident were to occur.

For those associations that are acting on their security concerns and implementing such measures as cameras or automatic license plate readers, the attorneys advise that written notice should be sent to all owners and residents explaining their purpose and including the appropriate legal disclaimers. They also suggest posting signs to make it clear that cameras and license plate readers are not being actively monitored, if that is indeed the case.

The discussions also touched on the significance of maintaining all doors, gates, locks and other common-area features in proper working order. They emphasized that associations must be diligent in their implementation of proper maintenance and repairs. If any doors, gates, locks or other common area features are temporarily out of service, residents should be notified and records should be maintained regarding all the remediation efforts undertaken by the association.

One of the important steps that associations can take to avoid liability is to amend the covenants to add an exculpatory clause, agreed the experts. These contractual provisions state that the association is not a security provider, and the owners are responsible for their own security measures. They note that such clauses help to eliminate liability and are generally enforceable in the absence of willful or wanton misconduct.

The experts also highly recommended that associations acquire and maintain adequate insurance coverage, including commercial general liability as well as director and officer’s liability policies.
This recent seminar and other events from CAI held across the country are very important for all the professionals and volunteers who serve associations. We highly recommend involvement and participation in the industry’s preeminent organization, and we also suggest visiting its Ungated blog and subscribing to receive all its future articles via email. Also, be sure to subscribe to our Newsroom blog and e-newsletter.