Florida community associations, just as with all other property owners in the state, can be held liable for crimes committed on their properties. Associations and other property owners owe a duty to their residents and guests to undergo reasonable steps to protect against foreseeable crimes.
There have been cases over the years of Florida associations being sued by the victims of crimes that took place in their community for allegedly failing to implement adequate security measures. Some of these suits, especially those involving severe injuries, have been resolved in considerable rulings or settlements in favor of the victims. These awards, combined with the litigation costs and the possibility of increased insurance premiums, can be financially disastrous for many associations.
Exactly what is considered reasonable security is the key question before the courts in these negligence claims. Other considerations include whether the crime that took place was foreseeable. For instance, in a gated high-end community, residents and guests may expect a greater level of security, so some might argue that such community is to take measures at a higher standard.
In addition to implementing effective and reasonable measures with the help of licensed security services and professionals, associations should also consider protecting themselves against negligent security lawsuits by including certain disclaimers in their governing documents. If these disclaimers are to be added to the documents, they should be announced and discussed at a board meeting and other steps may need to be followed to ensure that the amendments to the governing documents are properly enacted.
Communications to the owners and residents about their responsibility to lock doors and windows or to install alarms or exterior lighting can also be helpful. Additionally, associations and their management should closely monitor and assess any known crimes that occur within or in close proximity to the community, and they should ensure that any security measures and systems put in place are functioning at full capacity.
By working closely with highly experienced legal counsel and security professionals, associations can help to diminish their exposure to potential liability stemming from negligent security claims.