Community associations must provide sophisticated and insured recreational amenities within their properties to be competitive these days. Regardless of the specific facility, providing a safe, insured environment compliant with both governing documents and applicable laws is critical, and the responsibility falls to board members and community administrators.
“The [board’s] primary concerns are caring for the safety and enjoyment of the residents, limiting the board’s exposure to liability and minimizing the costs for the condominium unit owners,” says Associate Attorney Paula S. Buzzi, Esq., from law firm Saavedra & Goodwin, based in Fort Lauderdale.
Since many boards change seats annually, the preparation of sound governing documents pertaining to athletic amenities is vital. To this end, boards should have a check list of “concerns” when drafting or revisiting rules and regulations. “Fairness, reasonableness, insurance concerns, safety, uniformity of rules and enforcement thereof, dealing with kids versus adults, liability, accessibility and disability access should all be considered,” says Associate Attorney Alessandra Stivelman with the Hollywood-based law firm Eisinger, Brown, Lewis, Frankel & Chaiet, P.A.
“How access is granted depends on the specific facility. Security is always a concern and precautions depend on the actual facility and type of facility,” says Stivelman. “Access rights may be suspended (pursuant to statute) and sometimes it is difficult to enforce. Some associations have rules and regulations that limit the number of guests, or require that guests must be accompanied by owners. Parking considerations and requests for private use can also become issues that should be discussed, and regulations uniformly enforced.”
“Whether the amenities are worth the increased insurance burden depends on the unit owners and what they value and can afford as a whole,” says Buzzi. “Just take a look at the tri-county area. There is a condominium boom going on right now. You need your building to stay competitive in this real estate market against the newer buildings erected with the latest amenities. You don’t want your building to become a dinosaur.”
In some cases, having state-of-the-art amenities is the cost of doing business. Like Buzzi notes, it is how properties can remain competitive and vital. For many boards still struggling with post Great Recession budget woes—it’s hard to strike a balance.
“HOAs and condominiums typically have a legal obligation to attend to any dangerous condition that arises in the athletic amenities,” says Buzzi. “Whether or not a condominium association is liable for injury or death related to an incident involving the athletic facility would depend on the specific circumstance. A waiver or consent form with strict waiver-of-liability language may help protect community associations in cases of injury or death, but employees should be vigilant about the conditions of equipment and amenities to avoid accidents.”