Sex Offenders – Not in my HOA – Not so fast

 

I will not sugar-coat it – owners are not comfortable with a sex-offender in their community.  As you can imagine, this causes the question to be asked:  can we ban sex offenders from our community?  This topic is important comes up more than I can believe.  Please review my comments carefully as I take this situation very serious just like you.

 

AMENDING THE CCRS:  There are several factors that should be considered and it is important to note, certain risks that the Association would have to assume before amending governing documents to ban sex offenders.   Every Association that I have studied that have banned sex offenders in the CCRs have ended up in court.  I do not advise a CCR ban.

First of all, if the Association gets involved and notifies its members of the identity and residence of a registered sex offender, then this “lifelong scrutiny” amounts to something close to “double jeopardy” because the offender is being punished, once again, for a sentence already served.  This is not necessarily unlawful, but could lead to unlawful harassment as explained below.

Second, and very importantly, if the Association places a ban on registered sex offenders, it is up to the Association/Board to monitor all those residing (and visiting) within the community.  The Association assumes extreme liability if a sex crime then occurs within community and people assumed that the Association was monitoring/tracking those who moved in.   I do not advise that your Board assume this duty and liability.  Every Association that has tried this approach (no reported cases in Utah) have ended up in court as well.  It just does not appear that a ban will be enforceable as one judge said, “people have to live somewhere….”  I am mostly concerned about the safety of members but also I am concerned about Board liability.  I do not advise that you ban sex offenders as further described in this letter.

Another question you may have is “does the Association have a duty to warn of sex offenders living in the Association.

Utah law states that “members of the public are not allowed to publicize the information [contained in the sex offender registry list] or use it to harass or threaten sex offenders or members of their families; and harassment, stalking, or threats against sex offenders or their families is prohibited and doing so may violate Utah criminal laws.” (Utah Code Ann. §77-27-21.5 (21)(b), (c).

As a Board you may choose to inform your members of the Sex Offender and Kidnap Offender and Registration website.  But to avoid complications, the Board should not single out or identify any individual and should definitely not restrict the individual as a member of the Association in any way.  Our recommendation and advice is to inform members to check the Sex Offender Registration website and advise owners to be cautiously aware of their community.

We always advise the Association not to publish a list of registered sex offenders in their newsletter or post the list in the clubhouse. 

Simply let it be known where the members can get the source of information regarding sex offenders.  Be very careful, because not only can you not publicize the information contained in the registry, you cannot “use it to harass” sex offenders or their family.  The term “harass” is often interpreted broadly by courts.  Merriam-Webster says that to “harass” is “to create an unpleasant or hostile situation.”  We do not believe it will take much to constitute harassment, so the Board must be careful.

 

 The term “cautious awareness” sums up the balance a board must strike between privacy rights and community safety.  Please be cautious of creating hysteria in your community. 

I advise all readers to feel free to contact me any time to discuss this further.  If you would like further clarification or have other questions I have not addressed here I would be happy to talk more with you.

 

John Richards

http://www.richardshoalaw.com 

 

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