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Apartment management: children ride scooters in common area

October 2016

Question

I am a director of an owners’ management company for a 20-apartment complex in Co Wicklow. Residents are a mix of young parents and older people, in their 70s and 80s.

Children up to 10 years old ride their bikes and scooters throughout the common area of the complex often with little regard for their own safety and that of others. If they have an accident and injure themselves or another resident or member of the public, is the management company liable or are the directors of the management company liable?

We have a set of house rules and are considering amending them to include a clause regarding the use of bicycles and scooters. Such a change will need to be approved by the members. However we realise that enforcing house rules is a challenge.


Answer

The demographic of apartment occupiers has changed significantly in Ireland over the last 20 years. Recent apartment and high-density developments require playgrounds as part of planning and it is encouraging to see playgrounds in new developments being better designed and more fun.

The use of common areas by occupiers or visitors carries the risk of accident, subsequent claims and litigation. Most insurance policies for apartment-blocks have a public liability element indemnifying the owners’ management company against any claim.

In theory a claim should only succeed if the owners’ management company has been negligent and the claimant can prove that.

Conditions typically attached to an apartment-block policy include taking reasonable precautions to prevent death and injury and remedy dangers that become apparent or take additional precautions. Given that you have now identified a risk, you should take reasonable action to prevent any claim.

While insurance companies can do regular risk assessments, it is also possible for an owners’ management company to have a risk assessment done to identify any hazards that may result in personal injury to a user of the common areas. If occupiers or visitors behave in a way that endangers other users, the owners’ management company should reduce the risk.

House rules adopted under Section 23 of the Multi-Unit Development Act are binding on all occupiers and owners within the development. It would be prudent to seek approval at a general meeting of owners for measures to reduce the risk from scooters and bicycles in the common areas and places for pedestrians.

Signs could also be used to remind people of the rules about scooters and bicycles; suggesting caution and demounting. You could also consider a playground for younger occupiers.

In essence the common areas to any apartment block should be a safe environment.

Discuss this with your insurance broker or provider and, as an additional measure, engage a risk surveyor to assess the development.

As an additional comfort to directors of the owners’ management company, I would strongly recommend you obtain directors and officers liability insurance against litigation costs.

Paul Mooney is a chartered property manager and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie