By David Swedelson, Senior Partner SwedelsonGottlieb; Condo Lawyer and HOA Attorney
Owners often want to hold their condo or HOA liable for their damages suffered after a burglary of their unit or home or other criminal act. They claim that their association was required to provide (more) security, that the gates were not working or that a light in the common area was out. An association’s liability may depend on many factors such as whether it is a secured complex, the nature of the security services provided, if any, the association’s knowledge of criminal activities in the area and whether the criminal activities are the kind of activities that the complaining homeowner has complained about, etc. But is an association liable merely because it does not provide security? Is the lack of security the cause of the crime? We have found that sometimes the answer to these questions is “yes”. However, more frequently, the answer to these questions is likely “no,” that the association is not liable for the alleged damage(s). And that was the holding in a recent unpublished California court of appeal decision.
In the Girardi v. San Rafael Homeowners Association case, a husband (a prominent attorney) and wife who owned a home in a luxury planned development (located in Pasadena) sued the Alta San Rafael HOA, where their home is located, for negligence after their house was burglarized twice (jewelry and other valuables with a value in excess of a million dollars was alleged to have been taken). The Girardis claimed that their association owed them, as owners, a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe, and breached that duty by failing to hire a security guard, monitor gates, and maintain the streetlights.