June 12, 2009

Condominium Safety – The Art of Preventing Injuries in Common Areas

Whitewater rafting can be an exhilarating experience. Who needs roller coasters when you can hurtle down a raging river at breakneck speed? However, the risk of striking sharp rocks that are obscured by water and foam is ever-present. Rafters must keep a watchful eye on the river ahead and steer clear of problem areas. Managing the common areas of a condominium requires a similar vigilance.

Condominium associations have a legal duty to maintain common areas in a safe condition. Failure to comply with applicable laws may be viewed by judges and juries as evidence of negligence. If the boards of condominium associations are or should be aware of dangerous conditions in common areas and fail to take prompt action to remedy those conditions, those associations and the members of their boards could end up on the losing end of negligence lawsuits and be liable for significant damages. It is therefore important for condominium boards to always be on the lookout for potential dangers in the common areas of their condominiums.

There are many ways in which an ounce of prevention can equal a pound of cure. Better lighting in common areas can reduce criminal activity and allow residents to spot tripping hazards in advance. Visual inspections of the premises by a board member can identify rotting wood in common area structures before a collapse occurs. Maintenance of sprinkler systems can limit the damage from a fire. Promptly clearing ice from entryways and sidewalks can reduce slip and fall incidents. The key is to spend time trying to anticipate hazards.

Condominium boards should make common area safety one of their top priorities. This involves taking owners’ safety-related concerns seriously, seeking professional guidance regarding the laws that their associations must follow, inspecting the common areas on a regular basis, and causing necessary maintenance, repair, and replacement of common areas to occur at the appropriate times. If boards perform their duties in this manner, they will help their associations avoid some of the rocks that lurk downstream.