6 Dos and Don’ts to Improve Security in Your Homeowner Association

1) Understand your responsibility. Each state differs in its requirements of associations to protect their residents. Some states have held that associations are required to provide safety for their residents, while others have absolved associations of that responsibility, according to the Foundation for Community Association Research in Alexandria, Va. Research the law in your state to know your association’s duties. Also review your governing documents to determine if they impose security requirements on the board.

2) Conduct an annual review. Security isn’t something you can assume is going well unless you hear otherwise. Each year, review any criminal incidents on your grounds to evaluate whether there are weak spots in your building’s systems. Consider adding inexpensive but effective security measures. For instance, many associations have added fake cameras that do nothing but feature blinking lights and signs touting 24-hour security.

3) Walk your beat. Regularly walk around your property to look for dangers. Security lights may need to be replaced, or lights may need to be added to illuminate a tall row of hedges that could serve as a hiding place for people up to no good.

4) Talk about safety. Regularly remind residents to be your eyes and ears on safety. Also remind them to call the police when they see unusual behavior–police departments place resources where they’re getting the most activity. Finally, explain the basics of communal living. For example, if your building is gated or fenced and guests need permission to enter, owners should never grant access to people they don’t know.

5) Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. In some cases where associations have been held responsible for failing to provide security, their liability stemmed from the fact they promised security measures they didn’t provide or exaggerated the security they did provide. Be honest with residents about what your association is responsible for and what it can and can’t do. If your association’s budget has been hit hard by residents in financial trouble and you’ve decided to cut back on security, notify homeowners of your decision. Also, if you add fake cameras with blinking lights, make sure residents know that’s an inexpensive deterrence measure, not a true security camera system. That way, if residents feel they need tighter security, they’re more likely to pursue it themselves through such measures as home security systems or outside lighting.

6) Guard the guards. If your association uses security personnel, monitor their performance. Associations have been held liable for the criminal actions of third parties allowed onto their property by security officers. In the 2004 Florida case of Martin v. Lago Grande Homeowners Association, an association was held liable for the wrongful death of a resident killed by a nonresident. The resident had informed security guards not to let the eventual murderer on the property, and guards failed to follow those instructions. Because there had been previous complaints about the guards’ performance, the association was held liable for failing to properly supervise them. So if you hear complaints about your current security service, address them with the company and, if necessary, hire a new service.