Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Home and Garden

Condo owner takes issue with guard who doesn't speak English

Write 'post orders' to clarify guard issue

Q: What are the requirements and liability for a condominium to have security personnel that understand and speak English? Our building has two guards on site 24/7. Some personnel speak English and some do not.

Recently, I had an emergency and the guard on duty did not understand me. Fortunately it was not a life-threatening situation. The incident did open up the question of the condominium risk of liability. What are your thoughts about the legal responsibility for not having English-speaking guards?

A: The two questions that you need to ask are: How much responsibility does the condominium have to protect the members? What are the duties of security?

Condominiums do not have the final obligation to protect the members but have only an obligation to establish safety policies and correct hazard problems. Each owner is responsible for their own safety. So what is security for and what are their duties? The source of the answer should be in a policy established by the board called "Post Orders," "Security Duties," "Safety Operations," or similar policies. I have been taught not to call it security or guards but access control. The main reason is that it can provide a false protection to the members. In event of an emergency, you really need to call 911 first. Any time I wrote a post order, the first action for the access control person was to observe and back away and immediately call for help.

The same is true for your security. Say they see someone breaking into a unit. They back away and make a call to 911. I do not suggest that the guard try to stop the crime but only observe and report. So, if he cannot speak English can he preform the duty to protect and report? That is a question I cannot answer as each event would dictate an action. Post orders should provide answers. In your situation was it inconvenience or an involved security problem? Remember that you must provide the final security for yourself.

Can unit owners be hired to consult?

Q: Our newly elected board has appointed two unit owners as finance officers to consult with the board. They were not elected as directors. Is this appointment proper and if one or two of the directors meet with these officers is it considered a board meeting?

A: The board is allowed to seek advice from professionals or non-professionals. They can hire outside guidance or seek volunteers from the members to provide oversight and advice. Even if they were not elected as directors they can be named as an officer or vice-officer or a committee member.

Directors may meet with the appointed officers and it would not be considered a board meeting as long as a majority of the elected directors are not in attendance. At a board meeting these appointees do not have a vote but can provide reports or advice to the directors. These appointed or contracted people can even be compensated.

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