Recently, we were alerted to a group of homeowners planning a camp-out on their HOA's common area – without first clearing it with the community's Board of Directors. When they were notified that it was not permitted due to liability concerns, the flood gate (of complaints) was opened. Apparently this was not the first social event that had been conducted without the Board’s knowledge.
The homeowners then asked for clarification on which events (everything from water balloon fights to Easter Egg Hunts to impromptu concerts) required ‘permission’.
The common denominator is not the activity, but that it is occurring on common area, and therefore requires Board approval. Think of it this way - you wouldn’t dream of setting up a social event in the lobby of the Coca Cola corporate office, without first obtaining permission. The same holds true for common areas within a community, which is also a business corporation tasked with protecting property value.
While homeowners have an undivided common interest in theses spaces, the Board is the one charged with its oversight. Anything amiss could potentially fall on their shoulders, and ultimately upon the Association itself. The Board must be very mindful of the restrictions spelled out in the governing documents.
For this particular community, the disclaimer stated, “Owners, Occupants and their guests shall use the common areas maintained by the Association and all other Common Property and all portions of the Community not contained with a Lot at their own risk and shall assume sole responsibility for their personal belongings…”
When an insurer is drafting the policy for the community, such statements are used to carve out exceptions in coverage. It is the Board’s discretion as to the level of risk and associated expenses it believes best benefits the Association.
Yes, the Board does have the authority to close off access to portions of the common area, and also authorize special events in these spaces. A frequent example:
“No garage sale, carport sale, or similar activity shall be conducted in any portion of the Community without the prior written consent of the Board of Directors. If permitted, such activities shall be subject to all reasonable conditions that the Board may impose.”