What happens when a guest damages HOA property?


Guests of a homeowner leave the water running and flood your HOA's clubhouse; maybe it was just an accident or a simple case of kids messing around. What happens now?

There have been many debates in the past about who pays for the damages in situations like these, though the issue itself could range from a car accident to damage inside one of the units. At the end of the day, who pays for the damage? Is it the guest of the homeowner, the homeowner themselves, or the HOA?

Who normally pays for damage to HOA property?

Continuing with the flooded clubhouse hypothetical, where a guest visiting a homeowner has flooded a community building causing water damage. Normally, the HOA has a duty and responsibility to pay for the damages since it is HOA property that was damaged. However in many cases, the HOA will want to reduce their costs. Using a personal reimbursement assessment, the HOA can charge the homeowner that invited the guest with fees to help pay for the damage. While this is an understandable and normal reaction on the HOA’s part, the solution is not so cut and dry.

What if the homeowner challenges the HOA?

If the HOA decides to pursue homeowners for damage done by their guests, the HOA should be absolutely assured of the people involved and the timeline of events, and be ready to prove it - prove it in court. In situations where the homeowner challenges the personal reimbursement assessment, the case will be passed to a judge who will, of course, require solid evidence to back up the HOA’s claim. The most ideal evidence would be video recordings of the incident, but most neighborhoods do not have cameras on every street corner or in every building. If there were witnesses to the accident, those witnesses will need to testify on the HOA’s behalf. Court can be messy and time consuming for HOAs and homeowners alike, and large legal fees can be incurred on both sides. Unless there was serious and expensive damage, or injury to another person, pressing such legal remedies should usually be avoided if at all possible.

What else is there to do?

Be sure to check your HOA's governing documents for any specific rules on the matter, and then look to the HOA master insurance policy. If the HOA board has been doing its job, the HOA should have insurance for such situations that will cover large repairs or purchases. If all else fails, discuss the extent of the damage with the homeowner and the guest informally. Conducted in a respectful and understanding manner, negotiations could end better than one would expect.

Source: Neighborhood Link - Sabrina Robinson
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