If you’re on the board of your neighborhood’s HOA, you probably offer your members certain amenities. Maybe you have a swimming pool, tennis courts, a basketball court, a gym or rec center, a playground, or a clubhouse. These amenities are great – they attract homeowners to your neighborhood. Since the cost is shared between the members of the HOA, it allows homeowners to enjoy these perks for a lower price than if they had to go elsewhere. It’s convenient, too, and it contributes to a community feeling since people can come together and hang out around the tennis courts, pool, and so on.
However, that doesn’t mean that these amenities are without their risks for the Homeowners Association. The HOA is open to a lot of liability when they provide these amenities because people can get hurt, opening up the possibility of legal action. It’s important to take steps to lower the risk of amenities as much as possible. We’re going to go over six steps to help you manage your HOA’s liability risk.
Reduce the risks your HOA faces.
1. Identify the risks that each amenity presents.
First of all, you have to know what risks you have to manage. Take a look at each amenity and figure out what hazards or risks are associated with it. For example:
- Swimming pools: Accidents can happen on the diving board. The water could become contaminated. Someone could drown. Trips and falls could happen on the pool deck.
- Gyms/Playgrounds: Someone could get hurt while using the playground or gym equipment, especially if children are unsupervised. If this equipment isn’t properly maintained, the risk of injury could be greater.
- Tennis courts/Basketball courts: Uneven, buckled, or cracked surfaces can lead to trips and falls.
- Clubhouses: If you have a grill, oven, or stove at the clubhouse, you’ve got a fire risk.
It’s important to take a careful look at all of your HOA’s amenities and evaluate the disasters that could happen. Yes, it’s not fun to consider worst-case-scenarios, but your goal is to make everything as safe as possible so that those worst-case scenarios don’t happen.
2. Check over all the relevant bylaws, codes, and laws.
Now it’s time to take a look at your HOA’s bylaws, local laws and codes, and any state laws or regulations that pertain to your amenities. These bylaws and codes can give you some guidance as to how to maintain and manage your amenities to reduce risk. Keep all of your amenities up to scratch and comply with any relevant codes or laws. (And if you plan to make any changes to your amenities, make sure that you’re in touch with your city, county, or state to ensure that you’ve got the necessary approval.)
3. Take away anything that creates a significant amount of risk.
You might have to just go the whole hog and take away something that creates a lot of risks – for example, a diving board at the pool, monkey bars on the playground, or a grill at the clubhouse. If it’s something that just amps up the risk to an unnecessary level, it might be best just to do away with it.
4. Create rules for the use of each amenity.
It’s also a good idea to have some rules for the use of the neighborhood’s amenities. These rules should be written out clearly. And then there should be proper signage in an easily visible place by each amenity to once again lay out the rules. It’s also probably a good idea to have a legal professional look over your rules so that you can minimize the liability of the HOA as much as possible.
When you’re making your rules, consider:
- Who will be allowed to use the amenities? Is it only HOA members or will they be allowed to bring guests?
- What are the hours that each amenity will be available? There should be set hours that people can use things like the pool, the tennis courts, the gym, the clubhouse, and so on. To enforce these rules, you may need to get gates and locks so you can close the amenities during off-hours.
- What activities aren’t allowed? You might want to consider prohibiting smoking and alcohol use.
These rules aren’t there to take all the fun out of going to the pool, playing a game of tennis, or frolicking on the playground. They’re there to keep everyone as safe as possible. Liability and lawsuits aside, you don’t want to see one of your neighbors or their kids get hurt.
But in the event that you have a situation, it’s important that you have the general liability insurance you need to protect your HOA from the resulting lawsuit. We can help you get the HOA insurance (including general liability, property insurance, D&O insurance, and more) that you need. You can get started by filling out our online quote form or giving us a call today.
5. Tell the HOA members about the rules.
Well, you can’t expect people to follow rules they don’t know about! You should provide every member of the HOA with a printed copy, and you should also make sure to post signs that clearly state the rules around each amenity. They need to be in a clearly visible spot, and the wording should be very clear and easy to understand. If there are any changes to the rules, hours, and so on of the amenities, be sure to notify everyone of the changes.
6. Inspect the facilities regularly.
It’s also really important to keep up with maintenance and such around the shared areas, facilities, and amenities. By having board members or a property manager inspect the amenities, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to notice hazards and fix them. (Pay special attention to smoke detectors.) And make sure you have a clear method to keep track of these inspections – perhaps by keeping a log.
There are plenty of great things about providing amenities as an HOA. But these things aren’t without their risks. It’s important to take steps to keep people from getting hurt and lessen the chance of an accident. (And, incidentally, this lowers the HOA’s liability, too.)
Another way to protect yourself as an HOA is to get Homeowners Association insurance. Our agents can help you get the insurance you need to protect your HOA and cover the risks you face. Getting started with quotes is easy – all you have to do is fill out our quote form or give us a call today.