Is the condo association or HOA responsible for your slip and fall injury? Discover all the parties who should pay your claim.
Slip and fall cases are premises liability claims asserted against the owner or manager of the property where the accident happened. Sometimes, the responsible party for your slip and fall can be a condominium association or homeowner’s association (HOA).
The condo association or HOA is responsible for maintaining common areas of condominium complexes and housing developments. They also enforce community rules and regulations. These roles expose associations to liability for slip and fall accidents caused by dangerous conditions in common areas of the community.
Sometimes, an association fails to repair a dangerous condition in a common area. For example, let’s say a condominium complex has a broken sidewalk. The association fails to do anything about it. A person then trips over the broken sidewalk. Now, the association may be responsible for the injured person’s medical bills and other damages.
This article will look at the functions of condo associations and HOAs, and how those functions can give rise to slip and fall claims. If you have to make an injury claim or file a lawsuit against your condo association or HOA, there are special legal considerations that you should take into account.
What Do Condo Associations and HOAs Do?
Condo associations and HOAs are entities that organize condominium and planned housing communities. When the community is formed, the HOA creates and publicly records a document called the Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions (CC&Rs). It details the rules that homeowners in the condo or development must follow.
For example, the CC&Rs detail what property owners must do to maintain the cleanliness and appearance of their units or houses. Homeowners who break these rules are fined. The CC&Rs also give control of common elements or areas (e.g., parking lots, parks, or gyms) to the condo association or HOA, which then has to maintain those common areas.
1. Collect Dues From Property Owners
The association needs money to fulfill these functions. It primarily gets that money from two sources. The first source is fines from rule violations. Perhaps a property owner painted their house hot pink or failed to maintain their front yard. After sending warning notices and investigating the incident, a property owner can then be fined.
The second source of money for the HOA comes from monthly dues. This is an amount, dictated by the CC&Rs, that is paid by every condominium or house owner in the development. Payment of association dues may seem like a lower priority than mortgage payments or other bills. However, the failure to pay dues or fines carries serious legal consequences.
2. Foreclose on Your Home If You Don’t Pay Your Share
Most people know that if you don’t pay your mortgage, the bank will foreclose on your house. In other words, if the bank can’t get its loan money back from your payments, it’s legally allowed to take and sell your home to recover its money.
Less people know that, in some states, condo associations and HOAs can do the exact same thing if you fail to pay dues.
Some states, like Nevada, are “super lien” states, meaning the HOA has a priority interest in your property that is superior to your mortgage lender. The HOA can foreclose on your home, but the HOA won’t owe your mortgage company anything. You will lose the property and still be on the hook to pay the full amount of your mortgage.
This point is particularly relevant when you get into a legal dispute with your own association. If you are harmed when you slip and fall on a broken sidewalk that should have been repaired by the association, you might see payment of association dues as unfair. After all, their negligence hurt you. So they should be paying you instead, right?
Wrong. Though it seems unfair, the system just doesn’t work this way. Whether or not your community association’s negligence or other acts harmed you is a question not resolved until you have a judgment in your favor. Past due HOA assessments, though, can be enforced immediately. In most situations, the association does not even need to go to court to foreclose.
It is thus vital that you always timely pay your association dues. Even if you have a good slip and fall case, that victory will mean much less if you have lost your home to foreclosure. And, in states like Nevada, an HOA foreclosure can leave you with a ton of mortgage debt in addition to a lost home. So, always make sure that you get compensated through legal and proper means.
How To Make Your Slip and Fall Claim
When dealing with slip and fall claims, you need to make sure that you are targeting the proper people and companies. As with all legal matters, the details are important!
You don’t want to sue the wrong community association, lose the case, and then be unable to sue the correct one because you’ve missed the statute of limitations.
1. Did Your Injury Actually Happen on HOA-Maintained Property?
First and foremost: If your injury was on a resident’s private property, it’s very unlikely that the association can be held legally responsible for your injury. Associations are usually only responsible for common elements or areas of a community like sidewalks and parking lots.
Owners themselves are responsible for hazardous conditions in their homes, so your recourse is to file a claim with the unit owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy.
2. Are You Suing the Right HOA?
Second, keep in mind that your condominium or home may be subject to the rules of more than one association. For example, master HOAs are associations that manage several smaller communities, each with its own association.
You can usually figure out if you have a master HOA by looking at the dues you pay every month: If you pay two, then you probably have a master HOA. In that case, you should look at the CC&Rs for each very carefully. Figure out which one is responsible for the place where you were injured.
For example, if you slip at a swimming pool used by residents of several communities, the master HOA may be liable for your injury. If you trip over a broken sidewalk outside of your condo, your local HOA (also sometimes called a sub HOA) is probably responsible.
You may need to speak with a personal injury lawyer to figure out which association is liable for your damages.
3. Is a Management Company Responsible for Your Injury?
Finally, keep in mind that these associations are run by homeowners who generally do not have the time to do the day-to-day work of running the associations. Most of them will hire a management company to do this work.
Management companies take payments, make repairs, handle security, and generally handle the business of operating a community.
The existence of a management company is important because if you have to sue the association, it may claim that the management company is to blame for the condition that caused your injury. While that may not absolve the association of responsibility, it does mean that you need to make your claim against the management company as well.
Read the Fine Print and Stay Safe In Your Community
Condominium associations and HOAs can make life easier. They can improve communities, making them more attractive and providing helpful services for you and your family. When legal problems arise, though, the existence of an association raises a lot of questions and requires significant attention to detail on your part.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a slip and fall accident in an association-controlled community, you need to make sure you’re proceeding correctly. Contact a qualified personal injury attorney or law firm in your state for a free case evaluation.
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