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Trayvon Martin Death and the Neighborhood HOA


The death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin is all over the news! Many are waiting for this neighborhood watch killer to be put on trial. Some are also wondering if the HOA could have a civil suit against them regarding their rules and regulations.

The HOA could be in trouble because it assigned Zimmerman the role of community watchman on the night of February 26 when he followed, shot and killed Martin. Even if Florida’s "stand-your-ground" law keeps Zimmerman from trial in a criminal court, he and his HOA likely won't escape a civil suit for negligence.

If Zimmerman was given the role of “watchman”, there are questions about the HOA exercising due diligence in preparing Zimmerman for his role as a community representative and questions about whether or not he was fit for the role given his reported arrests for violent behavior in the past. As most neighborhood watch and HOA organizations don’t perform full-scale background checks before appointing members to serve in leadership functions, this could become a serious problem.

Background checks can be costly (costing more than $50 in many states) and could prevent HOAs and neighborhood watch groups from forming or continuing their functions. If the Martin family sues and wins a settlement from the HOA and/or neighborhood watch group in Sanford, Fl., where their son was killed, it could have a chilling effect on the future of similar organizations across the country.

This may call all community associations, even if they aren’t managed by the association, to review procedures and to do everything possible to prevent confrontations that should be handled by police.

Communities considering neighborhood watch programs may want to seek the following advice:

• Contact the local police department for start-up support, guidance and training. Volunteers who skip this critical step can find themselves on the wrong side of the law—or worse.

• Seek the advice of an attorney with expertise in community association law.

• Create processes for recruiting only responsible volunteers who will follow all procedures.

• Develop methods, such as websites and e-mail, to keep volunteers and residents informed.

Commentary from article by: RealEstateMikeA

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