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  1. #1
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    Mar. 4, 2006
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    Default Condo Association / home security problems...need advice. :(

    My DH and I are getting frustrated with our condo association and could use some advice, especially if any of you out there are attorneys, condo board members, insurance specialists or any other professionals with related experience.

    We live in a complex of townhomes and condos with a shared parking garage attached directly to the back doors of our homes (or, if you live in the condos, to the main elevator into the condo building.) In the past several months, we (townhome owners, collectively) have had a rash of break-ins into our vehicles. My truck has been broken into twice. Apparently a car was stolen in its entirety out of the garage just a little over a year ago (just before DH and I bought our place.)

    Unfortunately, some of the members of the condo board seem uninterested in doing anything to rectify the problem. A few of us have proposed putting in security cameras, but we were told that the board needed to ‘study the costs’ first and to date, no action towards that ‘study’ has been taken. The residents in the condo part of the building (who dominate the board in number) seem generally less interested in dealing with the problem – possibly because not all of the condo units have parking spots in the garage, and possibly because the garage spots the condos are assigned to are in a more heavily-trafficked area in the garage and therefore less enticing to target.

    My DH fears that the boldness of these thieves to access our garage and possibly hide until an ideal time to break into a car is only a step away from someone hiding out in the garage to mug or otherwise hurt someone. We raised this concern at a condo board meeting in January (shortly after our first truck break-in) and the condo board president dismissed us out of hand and said that we were being paranoid.

    Thoughts? Suggestions? Advice? Any feedback is appreciated!
    "To understand the soul of a horse is the closest human beings can come to knowing perfection."



  2. #2
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    Nov. 2, 2006
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    Default

    I lived in a Condo in Phoenix that had this problem, more of the cars being stolen outright- a big problem in Phoenix in general. We also had people going through our dumpsters- pretty high tech theives- one was finally caught by the police- and he said he had been picking the trash for 5 years, had a laptop full of personal information on the people that lived there.


    I learned to not leave stuff in my car- I also had a VW- that had a kill switch built in so that if it was stolen the car would shut down after 2 miles.

    Also having lived in Boston for many years, I think you have to be street wise- don't leave stuff in your car that would make it attractive to theives & get a lock for your steering wheel, and more importantly- use it!

    I swore my next home would have a private garage---and it does.



  3. #3
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    Jun. 30, 2006
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    I would continue to put this issue on the Agenda for each and every meeting. You may also want to volunteer to do the cost study and present your findings to the Board. Unfortunately, if no one on the Board is having problems, chances are it probably won't be a priority. You may want to even take it upon yourself to get bids as far as installation, etc.

    An interim solution would be see if the Board will allow you to put up signs saying the premises are monitored by security cameras. It may (?) work as a deterrent.

    My next suggestion is to consider being on the Board for the next term.
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  4. #4
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    Yeah, the 2nd time my truck was broken into, nothing of value was stolen because nothing of value was in it...but the thieves did rifle through everything and threw some clothes out of my truck and left them scattered on the garage floor (probably in agitation that there was nothing valuable to take.)

    Is a condo association liable for something that would happen in our garage if they are aware of a problem of this nature and opt to do nothing? Or commit to doing something (like a study) and fail to do anything in a reasonable amount of time, and another event occurs in the meantime?
    "To understand the soul of a horse is the closest human beings can come to knowing perfection."



  5. #5
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    Jan. 1, 2008
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    Default

    The first thing you want to do is check your Association's governing documents to see what sort of liability the Association has for common areas.

    If your garage is considered common area, or limited common area, the Association is responsible for it. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the Association is responsible for your personal loss. They may be responsible to provide reasonable security, though.

    If your garage is part of your title and you own it outright, separate from the common area, then you may have the right to install security in your garage.

    Depending on what your governing documents say, it may be worth your while to have an attorney write a letter to the Board. At some point, if the break-ins are frequent, your insurance company may have an issue with you. That places an undue burden on you, personally, if you get cancelled, or your rates rise, and the Association can't let that ride.

    You may also want to check your State code...most have laws regulating condo associations. Look into it.



  6. #6
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    Sep. 2, 2005
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    Upstate NY
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gloriginger View Post
    I learned to not leave stuff in my car

    This is a lovely theory but honestly it does not work that simple.

    Where I work the parking is in an area that is not that great. Car break ins are not uncommon.

    I know from personal experience the vehicle can be sparkling clean inside with nothing visible and no obvious places to hide things.

    They still smash your window and see if you have things hidden.



    Yes, join the condo board.

    If you have any friendly offices maybe you could discuss with them options of how to deter the criminals and have him present to the condo board.



  7. #7
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    Sep. 5, 2005
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    Mass.
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    Can you get a local cop to come and give a talk about security at the next association meeting? Your police department will come and do a safety survey free of charge and give suggestions how to improve safety.
    I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry



  8. #8
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    I can tell you EXACTLY what you need to do. Just don't get caught doing it.
    Thus do we growl that our big toes have, at this moment, been thrown up from below!



  9. #9
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    I would definitely report the incidents (your car break-ins) to the police. I have lived in 2 communities where this happened (Wash DC area) and in both cases the HOA did nothing but there was increased police presence for a while.

    I think sometimes HOAs choose not to acknowledge crime for fear it will hurt property values or scare potential home owners away.



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beam Me Up View Post
    I would definitely report the incidents (your car break-ins) to the police. I have lived in 2 communities where this happened (Wash DC area) and in both cases the HOA did nothing but there was increased police presence for a while.

    I think sometimes HOAs choose not to acknowledge crime for fear it will hurt property values or scare potential home owners away.
    Definitely report those crimes. Eventually, the stats will pop up in the annual research done by the insurance company and they may force the company that owns the garage and the overall condo complex to install cameras and additional security.
    Thus do we growl that our big toes have, at this moment, been thrown up from below!



  11. #11
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    Dec. 20, 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beam Me Up View Post
    I think sometimes HOAs choose not to acknowledge crime for fear it will hurt property values or scare potential home owners away.
    I think this is SO true. I live in a neighborhood of single family homes. It began as a few break-ins to cars parked on the street (which you're not supposed to do in the neighborhood, but I digress)..people had left GPS, Ipods, etc. in view. NOTHING mentioned in HOA e-mails or newsletter.

    Then the burglaries evolved...people were having items stolen out of their open garages during the day when homeowners were home. I had the privilege of driving by as my down the street neighbor was being robbed. I thought it was suspicious, and backed up...the burglars hightailed it out of there faster than I could get a tag number. I reported it to the HOA...NOTHING mentioned in HOA e-mails or newsletter.

    Now the thieves are breaking into homes...kicking in front doors of homeowners not using their deadbolts. Three houses in the last 2 months. STILL NOTHING from the HoA.

    I walk my dogs every day in the neighborhood, and I tell every single person I see about the break-ins. I encourage people to keep their garage doors down, put their cars inside the garage, and to lock deadbolts and storm doors whenever they leave. I figure a prepared and vigilant neighbor is probably the best defense in times like these.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beam Me Up View Post
    I think sometimes HOAs choose not to acknowledge crime for fear it will hurt property values or scare potential home owners away.
    That's a good point. When I sold my townhouse a few months ago the HOA disclosure documents included the minutes from the prior meetings. So, if there are security/crime issues discussed at the meetings, those should be in the minutes - and anyone looking to buy a condo would see those when they make an offer on a unit.

    As for what to do - find out how much money is in the budget. My old HOA was really strapped for cash between the foreclosures (FYI banks don't pay dues) and the people going into foreclosure who were behind. Between the two about 40% of the units were in arrears on dues.



  13. #13
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    Nov. 2, 2006
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by trubandloki View Post
    This is a lovely theory but honestly it does not work that simple.

    Where I work the parking is in an area that is not that great. Car break ins are not uncommon.

    I know from personal experience the vehicle can be sparkling clean inside with nothing visible and no obvious places to hide things.

    They still smash your window and see if you have things hidden.
    that's unfortunate for you, on many levels. I would hate working in such an unsafe area.



  14. #14
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    Jun. 29, 2008
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    contact your local police department about starting a neighborhood watch program. Our local department sent an officer to our condo complex and we had an informative meeting and set up a neighborhood watch, so now most all of the residents participate and have each other's backs. It has worked- they have caught a few local kids looking in cars and had the police come have a chat with them.
    Proudly Owned By Sierra, 2003 APHA/ PtHA Mare



  15. #15
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    Unfortunately, cameras are not a deterrent to most car thieves. It is very simple to just wear a mask and unidentifiable clothing while breaking into cars. Most people don't understand that taking a video of a person that's unidentifiable does absolutely nothing to solve or prevent a theft from happening. It's not useful evidence to make a case against a criminal. Without continuous monitoring of the images on video cameras, they're pretty much a waste of money.

    There are several things that will help with deterrence. Obviously, a night time security guard would solve the issue almost immediately. But that's very expensive. Your best bet is going to local law enforcement and telling them how many cars have been broken into in a short window of time, explain that you're worried about escalation, and ask that they increase the number of drive bys they make in a night. The presence of law enforcement really does reduce the number of crimes committed in a given area.

    But honestly, don't even bother wasting the money of cameras unless you enjoy watching people dressed in black with masks on break into cars. That's pretty much all you're likely to get on camera.
    Here today, gone tomorrow...



  16. #16
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    I would def do as others suggest here - bring it up at EVERY meeting, and I would also get a petition together and have other homeowners sign it - basically saying that you want this issue to be addressed by the association. Present the petition at the meeting. Contacting the local police to set up a neighborhood watch is a great idea, too. It certainly won't hurt to let the police know about the issues, I'm sure they'll have some suggestions. I would also let them know that the association is not doing anythin about it.

    In my state, there is a state board that 'oversees' the local condo associations. It may be worth your while to look into this, and also to send a copy of the signed petition to this board. Who knows, maybe it will light a fire under someone.

    The association is also required to keep some type of insurance for the common areas. This insurance company may cover the cost of damages to the vehicles parked in the common area. It's worth bringing up at the meetings and looking into it.

    Unfortunately, things won't change unless you are very, very persistent and have a big presence at the board meetings. Don't let it go, keep bugging them about it.



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrenchFrytheEqHorse View Post

    But honestly, don't even bother wasting the money of cameras unless you enjoy watching people dressed in black with masks on break into cars. That's pretty much all you're likely to get on camera.
    Unless you also have videos on the exit, or street, and can get vehicles/bikes driven/ridden by them. Much easily to identify. And they don't always wear masks...I've yet to work a vehicle prowl or residential burg where the bad guy was wearing a mask. Just sayin'...
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJenners View Post
    Unless you also have videos on the exit, or street, and can get vehicles/bikes driven/ridden by them. Much easily to identify. And they don't always wear masks...I've yet to work a vehicle prowl or residential burg where the bad guy was wearing a mask. Just sayin'...
    This may be true. In my area (of course, it's Baltimore, so crime isn't exactly... uncommon), repeated car thefts and break ins are typically conducted by "professionals" that know very well what they're doing. Sometimes they're even connected to rings of theft that go quite deep. We have learned that getting people on camera is evidence that's not likely to be very helpful in convicting anyone, and unfortunately, so have the car thieves.
    Here today, gone tomorrow...



  19. #19
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    Mar. 4, 2006
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    Thank you guys so much for the replies. This helps me think through how to approach this at our condo board meeting this week (which I'm obviously attending!!)

    As far as the utility of the video cameras go - part of the problem (I think) is that there is a dispute over how these criminals are accessing our garage. Some unit owners believe that the problem is that too many people have given out the master key to our two side doors into the garage from the street (for housekeeping, contractors, child care, house sitting, guests, etc) and that as a result the people doing this are 'regulars' or 'friends of regulars' in the garage....but others (I'm in the latter category personally) think that the perpetrators are accessing the garage by sneaking in on foot when the garage door opens for a car, because the door will stay open for 10-20 seconds after each car drives through and our garage is packed with cars and easy to hide in. I'm hoping that it will be a good start to at least identify where the access is occurring, as a starting point!

    I strongly agree with those of you who point out that a big problem is the HOA not wanting to acknowledge that there is a problem for fear of property value impact. Add to that the fact that our HOA president is an older retired gentleman who says publicly that he "doesn't care about property value" because he plans to "die in his condo." (we tried to point out at the last condo meeting that the garage crime WOULD impact property value as a reason to take action....and that was the response we got.)
    "To understand the soul of a horse is the closest human beings can come to knowing perfection."



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swale01 View Post
    Add to that the fact that our HOA president is an older retired gentleman who says publicly that he "doesn't care about property value" because he plans to "die in his condo." (we tried to point out at the last condo meeting that the garage crime WOULD impact property value as a reason to take action....and that was the response we got.)
    By any chance does your HOA have trouble getting people to be on the Board? I know ours does. I have been on our Board for about 12 years including 3 as president and it's a PITA, but it's worth it to have a say in the decision making process. If your president is making asinine statements like that and is getting away with it, you should be bothered by that. You don't need someone on the Board that doesn't have the Association's best interests at heart. I'm guessing he's on the Board and serves as president because no one else wants to do it.

    You should really think about participating as a Board member in the future.
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