There is a man living in our complex who appears to have Down's
syndrome. He goes to the laundry facilities and steals women’s underwear
and bras. He has even tugged on a girl’s underwear as she was bending
over. The board is afraid of lawsuits and refuses to send the owner a
letter. If anyone complains, they say "go to the police." What can we
: Your board may be unduly concerned about disability rights.
Fortunately, the law only requires "reasonable" accommodation of
disabilities. There is no law or case giving a
disabled person the right to steal undergarments. That means your panty
thief may create liability for your association if the board refuses to
. While the association is normally not responsible for the criminal acts of a third party, Frances T. v. Village Green
made an exception when the crime is foreseeable. In Frances T, the board knew about the increased crime in the area, failed to install exterior lighting Frances T. had requested (to make her unit safer) and actively prevented her from installing lighting.
She was subsequently raped and robbed in her unit. The court found the
association and its directors liable because the harm was foreseeable
and they did nothing.
your panty thief, it is foreseeable the thefts will continue and may
escalate into something more physical. If so, your association could be
liable for your board's failure to act. Simply saying “Go to the police” will not remove the liability exposure.
The courts provide a wide degree of latitude to board decisions so
there is no right or wrong option, aside from doing nothing. T
board can use the nuisance provision of your CC&Rs to call a hearing
to warn the owner. If the behavior continues, fines
can be levied (following another hearing). If that does not work, a
letter from legal counsel threatening litigation can be next.
Ultimately, a lawsuit may be necessary. If needed, the board can skip
the early steps and jump to a lawyer letter and potential litigation.
Notice to Members
Should the members be warned? Notifying owners can be tricky. If you
don't notify the membership and your panty thief escalates to sexual
assaults, your board could be sued for failing to warn the members. If
the board says too much, they could be sued by the panty thief. It's the
same problem boards face when a registered sex offender moves into a
complex. They can't post a notice that sex offender Dilbert Smith moved
into unit 301. They must be more circumspect
: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us
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