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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Illustrates Potential Repercussions of Inadequate Enforcement for Community Associations

The horrific murder of an 11-year-old Las Vegas girl stemming from a shooting into her home, which had been mistakenly targeted by local gang members, has led to a wrongful death lawsuit against the homeowners association and property management firm. The tragic case delivers a very clear and important message for community associations contending with problem residents who may pose a threat.

The shooting last November was caught on surveillance video, which shows multiple assailants firing indiscriminately into the home where Angelina Erives lived with her mother, step-father and two sisters. The shooters were confused as to the location of their intended target, which was a home two doors down the street, when they killed Angelina (pictured below in family photo provided to media).

ErivesAccording to statements of the attorney for Angelina’s mother and siblings in several news reports, the neighboring property had been occupied by as many as 20 different tenants and the police had been called to that property on numerous occasions. The homeowners association and property management company were aware of the problems and had been in communications with the owner of the home. However, the association’s apparent enforcement of the community’s covenants, conditions and restrictions fell short of evicting the problem residents.

“Defendant Traditions HOA owed a duty of care to act as a reasonable homeowners association,” reads the complaint. “These duties include, but are not limited to, ensuring that tenants renting homes in the Traditions community abided by CC&Rs and ensuring tenants and properties were not a danger or nuisance to the community. Defendant also owed a duty to enforce remedies provided for in the CC&Rs, up to and including eviction, of tenants who committed three or more material violations of the CC&Rs within a 12-month period.”

The suit also states that the HOA and property management defendants’ “conduct in not enforcing the CC&Rs, allowing gang members to reside at the Property, and allowing the Property to become a danger to the community was despicable and so contemptible that it would be looked down upon and despised by ordinary decent people and was carried on by Defendants with willful and conscious disregard for the safety of anyone in the Traditions community.”

If these claims hold up in court and a jury finds that the HOA failed to enforce its rules and evict tenants who had committed three or more material violations within a 12 month period or were demonstrably a danger to the community, the potential liability could be significant. The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages, which are intended to punish and make an example of the defendants as well as deter other associations and property management firms from similar conduct in the future.

Even without the potential negative outcome for the HOA in this case, the horrifically tragic death of Angelina and the allegations that it failed to provide for the safety and security of the community’s residents should send a clear message to all associations. The restrictions against problematic and potentially dangerous residents are among the most critically important measurers that associations are charged with monitoring and enforcing. Lax attitudes toward these provisions could lead to extremely dire and devastating consequences, so associations must always remain vigilant against violators and expeditiously enforce their restrictions.