Homeowners’ associations have a duty of care to maintain their communities and remove unnecessary hazards to residents in the neighborhood and their guests and they must take reasonable actions to protect property and people from damage and injury. When they fail in this duty, homeowners have the right to pursue compensation for the personal injuries and any property damage the HOA’s negligence causes.
Maintaining Public Areas
Many private neighborhoods in Illinois include parks, playgrounds, tennis courts, swimming pools, picnic areas, shelters, beaches, and other public areas for residents to gather. These areas can contain swings that are in disrepair, swimming pools with broken fences that children can crawl through, potholes that can twist and break ankles, sharp objects that can cause deep lacerations, and many other unnecessary hazards. In many cases, it is the responsibility of the HOA to ensure these areas and any pathways, roads, parking areas, equipment, benches, tables, or other fixtures within them are properly maintained.
This includes conducting regular inspections and promptly repairing any known problems before they can cause personal injuries or property damage. However, while this is a clear duty of care to residents, many HOA’s neglect repairs and fail to perform the required inspections. This places residents at risk of suffering everything from cuts and burns to broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and even death.
Residents who live in neighborhoods governed by HOA’s should thoroughly document any damage they see and the communications they have with the HOA regarding repairs and other actions. Residents should keep photographs, statements from neighbors, and copies of any communications sent by the HOA related to the problem. This information can be used to establish negligence on the part of the HOA and identify the individuals, repair companies, etc. whose actions contributed to the individual’s personal injuries.
Courts Rule in Favor of Residents
HOA’s are not immune from liability and several recent cases in Nevada have highlighted this important fact. In Illinois, HOA’s can be sued for actual damages that cover the expenses generated by the injury. An individual’s personal injury attorney may also seek punitive damages that are intended to change the negligent behavior of the HOA so that such actions don’t take place again in the future.