Q&A: When Drug Deals Happen at Our Property

Q. Does a condo board of trustees bear any liability in regard to an owner whose son lives in their condo with his girlfriend, and both allegedly purchase drugs in our hidden parking lot on a daily basis? Residents have observed them do transactions numerous times, and have noted vehicle descriptions, plates, etc. The parents are in denial, but EMT personnel have been called to our property for overdose situations. Our board's concern is liability for any death occurring in said unit.

                                  —Nervous Neighbor

A. “Generally speaking, a condominium association would not be liable for the criminal acts of third parties on condominium property,” says attorney Scott Eriksen of Perkins & Anctil, P.C., in Westford, Massachusetts. “However, there may be certain exceptions to this in the event that the board failed to comply with a specific contractual or other duty. For example, if an association’s governing documents require the board to undertake certain security measures and the board failed to do so, that could create a potential theory of recovery for an injured plaintiff.  Also, to the extent that an association does provide security, it should do so in a manner that is reasonable and consistent with applicable law.  

 “Unfortunately, in the event of a death at the condominium property, it may be that the association or board would be named as a potential party. We advise clients that the best way of mitigating their exposure for damages arising out of criminal activity or illegal conduct is to involve the local authorities early and often, and to engage the community to assist with this process (such that residents are aware that they should call the police directly if they witness improper activity). While this may not prevent a lawsuit, establishing a record of diligent and consistent attention to these matters would be important in preparing a defense. It would also behoove the association board to periodically check with their insurance agent to be sure that appropriate liability and other coverage is in place in the event of a claim.”

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