Take Action Before Behavior of Aging Members Spirals Out of Control

October 27, 2016
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Age-restricted communities have become a real force in the housing market, providing a great alternative for elderly people who want to stay active and remain in their homes rather than move into nursing homes or assisted living facilities as past generations often did. But they’ve also presented challenges for their associations—members who are “aging in place” at such communities are more likely to develop medical problems or issues that are an inevitable part of getting older. And that could mean liability for an association that hasn’t properly handled incidents arising from the declining health of members. Some members may start to suffer from dementia or other neurologic conditions that can lead to sometimes violent or otherwise dangerous behavior, while others might become at risk for accidents because of physical limitations.

So be aware that if you manage an age-restricted community, you’ll face some special management concerns, and you must know how to deal with these issues when they become apparent or when there’s an actual emergency. You should understand what you’re up against, and know what your obligation is to take “reasonable” action. Common problems that you should be aware of in age-restricted communities include: Fire hazards and hygiene issues that offend other members.

Violent behavior can escalate into a very dangerous situation for the member, other members, and you. But this danger isn’t limited to just the people involved in an altercation; associations have faced an unpleasant surprise when an incident results in a lawsuit for them. In fact, more cases of fatal criminal conduct at age-restricted communities are ending up in litigation for the associations.

The issue of negligence pops up particularly when victims of violence at an age-restricted community feel that the manager, association, or board hasn’t taken sufficient action. Associations are often sued for the outcome of a member’s criminal conduct if there was a long history of threats and misbehavior and they didn’t do enough to stop that behavior. While such cases are state- and fact-specific, managers generally do have some obligation to get involved, so it’s crucial to check with your association’s attorney about requirements in your state.

For a model resolution that will help your association avoid liability and for more ways to serve the needs of your community, see “Include Four Steps in Age-Restricted Community Resolution,” available to subscribers here.