Here is a question I received recently about stolen property belonging to an owner/resident in an HOA:
“I have been reading your blog. Would you provide information about who pays for stolen private property belonging to homeowners? Would it be the Association or the homeowner? For example, let’s say bikes were stolen from a deeded parking stall when an Association garage gate was left off its hinges overnight for repairs.”
This is a good question. The threshold answer is that owners are responsible for protecting their own personal property and associations/boards are not. Owners should carry insurance to cover such property. Likewise, tenants should purchase insurance to cover their own personal property. The bike, by being left in the deeded parking spot, was more accessible than, say, bringing it inside or keeping it in locked storage.
That said, if one could prove negligence on the part of the association that “caused” the loss, one might recover from the association for the loss. Proving negligence requires showing the board had a reasonable duty that it breached. Leaving a garage gate off overnight for repairs without securing the area might constitute negligence, if the development was located in an area where the crime rate is high. But if there was no way to secure the area, or was not any indication that crime was a common problem, or access was needed through the area, then it does not seem likely that there would be any negligence trumping the owner’s responsibility to protect and secure, and insure, their own personal property.