Adams Stirling PLC


QUESTION: My HOA has not repaired a parking lot overhead light. This has resulted in a very dark and unsafe condition which has led to car break-ins and potentially unsafe condition for residents and guests. What is the association's responsibility?

ANSWER: Your board should repair the light as soon as possible. Otherwise, the association could be liable for any injuries to persons or property that might result from their failure to respond--especially since the board is already on notice that the lack of lighting may have been a factor in previous criminal activity.

Village Green Association. A similar set of circumstances has already been litigated up to the California Supreme Court. In the Village Green Owners Association, a young woman installed exterior security lights after her condo was burglarized. Even though the board was aware of criminal activity in the development, she was ordered to remove the lighting because it had not been approved by the board. She complied and disconnected her lights. That night an unidentified person entered her unit under cover of darkness and raped and robbed her. She sued the board.

Foreseeable Harm. Even though boards are normally not responsible for the criminal acts of others, the Supreme Court held that directors can be held liable for their own negligence. The Court concluded that associations and members have a relationship requiring boards to exercise reasonable care to protect residents from foreseeable harm. The court found the following points relevant:
  • The association was on notice that crimes were being committed against residents. Correspondence from plaintiff and other residents, along with the articles in the association's newsletter, demonstrated the board was aware of the link between the lack of lighting and crime.

  • Plaintiff's unit had been recently burglarized and the board knew this.

It is not necessary that the prior crimes be identical to the ones actually perpetrated against a resident. To create liability, boards need not foresee the precise injury to a resident, only that the possibility of this type of harm is foreseeable. For more about the Court's reasoning see Frances T. v. Village Green.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC