2) Which facilities will you rent? Don’t automatically assume that you should rent all your facilities to the public. For example, you may find that it’s too expensive and the liability is too great to allow public assess to your pool, but the increased insurance costs and limited risk of personal injury in allowing non-owners to use your clubhouse is acceptable. Evaluate each amenity individually before making any decisions.
3) Who’s in, and who’s out? Ask yourself whether it’s necessary—and permissible—to place limits on whom you’ll allow to be guests. For instance, your association might be heavily populated by seniors who prefer not to lounge at the pool while children happily scream and perform cannonballs. But banning children might open your association up to family law discrimination claims, even if those claims end up being frivolous. Similarly, opening your golf course to novice and sometimes ill-behaved players may transform your residents’ peaceful round of golf into a high-tension activity. On the other hand, allowing an aerobics instructor to conduct classes in your gym or allowing personal trainers to use the same facilities to train nonresidents during certain hours may not bother residents—who may actually appreciate the convenience of those services. In addition, you may be able to require instructors or trainers to include your association as an additional insured under their liability insurance policy, which would limit your liability. Whatever the amenity, get residents’ feedback on whether they’ll feel comfortable sharing it with non-residents.
4) Know the laws that apply. Remember that once you allow the public to use your facilities, your association will be subject to new laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Do your facilities meet the requirements of the ADA? If not, what would it cost to bring them up to compliance, and do those costs outweigh the revenue? Also, renting out your clubhouse for such events as weddings and parties will open up the issue of liquor liability. You can require that guests not bring alcohol onto your property, but that rule can be hard to enforce, and it may limit the facility’s appeal. If you allow the consumption of alcohol, you’ll again have to check with your insurer to determine how that affects your coverage.
5) Don’t forget the added expenses. It sounds great to be able to supplement your association’s income, but how many people will sign up to use your newly available facilities if you don’t market them? You’ll probably have to pay a salesperson or marketing firm to advertise your facilities, so be sure to add those expenses into your cost versus revenue calculation.
There are so many issues to consider before allowing nonresidents to use your facilities that it’s unwise to make the decision without professional guidance. So be sure to run your ideas by an attorney or professional management association with experience on the issue. Reviewing these five questions with your board and researching insurance costs in advance will help you be prepared and minimize the time and money you spend to get that critical advice.