Q. I live in a gated community governed by an HOA. The HOA hired a security company to man the front gate and to patrol the community. The security company patrols in marked security vehicles. Security guards enforce the posted speed limits by using radar. When someone speeds they issue an HOA violation notice to the homeowner and the homeowner must appear before a Fining Committee to pay a fine of one-hundred dollars. The homeowner is also responsible for payment of the fine even if it was a visitor of theirs, or a delivery person, who was caught speeding. How can a homeowner be responsible for someone else’s driving habits? Are private security officers required to be properly trained in radar use?
A. We have written several responses recently about security measures employed by HOA’s in private communities. The bottom line is that the HOA needs to use reasonable care when it attempts to act as a security force. The more that the association attempts to provide or do in the area of security, the better trained its personnel should be. A large gated community in Miami was successfully sued because the hired guards at the gatehouse were not paying attention and admitted a visitor who ended up shooting a resident. The guards were instructed not to admit this particular visitor, who had previously threatened to hurt the victim. In the case of speed control, the HOA does have the right in a gated community to impose fines and suspensions for misuse of the private roads. We often see HOA’s installing speed bumps and other speed control devices.
With respect to radar devices, I believe the HOA would have a duty to ensure that its security vendor is using the device properly and reporting accurate data. The data could be challenged at the hearing before the fining committee, but if a majority of the committee members agree that there was a violation, then the HOA has the right to collect the fine. With respect to visitors who speed, a homeowner in an association is responsible for the conduct of its tenants and guests. If a guest caused damage to the clubhouse or ran over a mailbox, the homeowner who invited that guest into that community would be jointly responsible for the repair costs. The same concept applies to any guests who misuse the HOA’s private roads.