With several prominent issues appearing in the news in the last few months concerning allegations of sexual abuse, it is important for associations to consider what policies they have in place to protect residents from potential sexual predators. Associations should put serious thought into putting into place a policy to allow all residents to go through a screening process, specifically for sexual and violent crimes. In most situations, an Association whose governing documents and rules and regulations contain a provision that sexual offenders are banned from living in their community, can look to prevent them from living there, helping to ensure the safety of the residents of their community.
There are two main issues to consider when looking at an Associations policy, offenders coming into the community and ones that are already there. After having a policy in place to prevent sexual offenders from living in the community, screening for these types of things is the best preventative measure an Association can take to prevent a sexual offender from moving into their neighborhood. Requiring all new owners and tenants to submit to a background check allows the Association to check for people who have backgrounds that could potential make their neighborhood unsafe. Without proper screening, once a sexual offender has moved into the community, it can be very difficult, if not impossible to get rid of them.
If it is found out that a sexual predator is already living in the condo or HOA, the issue switches to what is to be done at that point. The Board and residents of a community must be careful to not overstep what should be done, mainly to prevent any type of error or wrong information on a person’s actual or alleged record. Posting a letter at the clubhouse or on all the Owner’s doors with information such as the name and address of the offender could lead to some legal consequences if it is determined that a mistake is made or there is incorrect information in the letter. The best approach such a situation is to post something that links the FDLE Sexual Offender Website that allows the residents to look up for themselves any person they think may fall into the sex offender category.
This is a tough issue to deal with, especially when there are many children in an association. It is important to screen prospective residents as well as have policies in place that protect them from not only sexual offenders, but other violent offenders as well.