QUESTION: Our board is calling for the community to help paint the common area fences. Is that prudent? What if someone is injured?
ANSWER: It is not unusual for small associations to engage in self-help projects to keep costs down. As long as the projects do not require much skill and the potential for injury is low, it becomes a team building event that benefits the association by keeping costs down.
Evaluate Risk. Risky ventures should be avoided. For example, I would not recommend climbing ladders to clean gutters. Nor would I favor volunteers performing electrical or plumbing repairs. The potential for harm to persons and property is too high. Such work should be done by licensed and insured contractors. Lower-risk projects can be done by volunteers.
Insurance. Painting fences has little potential for property damage or injury. Even so, if the board moves forward with the project, it should first talk to the association's insurance broker to make sure it has proper coverage in the event volunteers are injured.
Labor Laws. If owners volunteer their time, they aren't employees and labor laws do not apply. As volunteers, they aren't paid anything so there is nothing to withhold. As long as the association takes reasonable steps to avoid injuries and it carries appropriate insurance, there shouldn't be a problem.
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