Georgia’s Condo Boom Puts Gun Violence Prevention in the Hands of HOAs

Condominium living has become increasingly popular in Georgia in recent years, between the wave of downsizing baby boomers and the influx of millennial first-time homeowners seeking more modest and centralized options than the suburbs. Although construction has yet to catch up with demand, there are more people living in Georgia condo complexes with each passing year.

Unlike apartment complexes or detached houses in informal communities, condos are usually regulated by a governing board or homeowners’ association (HOA). Among their myriad powers over residents, condo associations have the final say on many matters of security, gun safety, and violence prevention.

More Square Footage Doesn’t Necessarily Mean More Safety

One of the reasons condo living is so popular is that it feels safer than the alternatives. Condos are packed close together, often behind security gates, and seem less exposed than detached homes. When compared with apartment complexes, the higher square footage of condos, and the emphasis on homeownership over tenancy, implicitly promise more affluent neighbors. People assume this will keep them safe, but condo dwellers still fall victim to Georgia’s dizzying firearm death rate, even in well-off neighborhoods.

In June of 2018, an Atlanta couple were shot on the doorstep of Peachtree Towers, the luxury condo high rise where they lived, by masked robbers. The man did not survive. In February of the same year, another man was shot at his Atlanta condo complex by a driver who was delivering his Uber Eats order. In Sandy Springs in October, a man assaulted multiple women in a condo high rise’s parking lot and then fired up at the building. Thankfully, no one was killed in that incident, but the bullets penetrated two third-floor units. This was just two years after a gun violence activist was shot and killed in front of another Sandy Springs condo a few miles away.

Condo Boards Have More Limited Power than Landlords, but They Can Still Combat Violence

When one resident poses a threat to others, a condo board can’t “evict” him or her as easily as a landlord can a tenant. What it can do is fine the homeowner, place a lien on the property for any unpaid fines, and ultimately foreclose upon that lien, selling the property to a new owner.

Fines must be based on violations of the association’s CC&Rs, and these typically cannot include bans on gun ownership, but they can require residents to follow all applicable laws and refrain from activity that could cause a nuisance to neighbors. For protection from non-residents, condo boards are also responsible for the maintenance of all common areas, which includes gates and security lighting.

At the very least, HOAs should not abuse their power in ways that put residents at further risk, as one in California did by requiring garage doors to be left open during the day. The danger of break-ins was just one of the reasons this HOA was eventually forced to amend the rule, but such dangerous oversteps are not uncommon.

If you or your family have been exposed to gun violence due to your condo board’s negligence or mismanagement, contact the Stoddard Firm right away for a free consultation.