Community associations can be a great place for community involvement. It is always nice to see members get involved and help with operating the association. However, should the association be concerned about the actions of these volunteers?
An association may be held liable for the acts of its volunteers, depending on the situation. Accordingly, it is important to confirm that the association will be protected if something goes wrong. The association should contact its insurance carrier to ensure that it has insurance for volunteer workers. If not, then the association should not allow volunteer work without obtaining such insurance coverage. If there is insurance coverage, you should ensure that the person performing the work meets the definition of a volunteer, per the terms of the insurance policy. Also, there should be a determination as to what work, damage, and injury is covered per the terms of the policy. If a volunteer worker exceeds the scope of any covered work, or if the damage/injury is not covered under the terms of the policy, then the association may be exposed to liability. Obviously, determining the scope of insurance coverage requires a factual and legal review, and the association should seek the guidance of an attorney when determining the scope of insurance coverage.
Additionally, to further assist in limiting any potential exposure to liability, an association should create a list of official duties to be performed by each volunteer and have the volunteer sign a form acknowledging that the association has only authorized the volunteer to perform the duties on the list. Volunteers should not be permitted to engage in potentially hazardous activity or any activity that involves undue physical strain. In addition, an association should:
- not allow volunteers to perform any services that require the use of a licensed vendor/contractor or which would require a permit.
- seek legal guidance on whether a licensed vendor/contractor or permit is required for the work the volunteer will be performing.
- consider obtaining releases/indemnifications from volunteers performing services for the association.
While we understand this may discourage individuals from volunteering, an association has a fiduciary obligation to its members, which could include an obligation to protect the association from potential exposures to liability. Community involvement is wonderful but protecting the association is paramount.