K.D. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
There was an altercation between Management’s employee and a condo tenant. The tenant swung a bag of garbage at the Management’s employee head and it hit the employee in the head. Police were involved but charges were not pressed against the tenant. What would be an appropriate fine to the condo unit owner? Notice and hearing letter sent; hearing is coming up.
Mister Condo replies:
K.D., well that is quite a disturbing tale. If the police were involved and the employee decided not to press charges or the police decided that no crime was committed, there may be no further legal action that can be taken. It seems like a clear case of assault to me but I am not a law enforcement professional. As far as what type of fine is appropriate, I am afraid you are “after the fact” on this occurrence. Unless you already had a rule in place that was violated by the tenant, you may be quite powerless to issue a fine for this event. You can create a rule that will be in effect if such an incident happens again but that is for future offenses; not this one. You can set the fine to whatever amount you want but keep in mind that the Board is not a law enforcement agency and that the fine should be in line with other fines. For instance, if littering carries a $25 fine, then swinging a bag of garbage may be a similar offense and carry the same fine. Fines are used to keep the peace and allow reasonable enforcement of rules. They are not a penalty and they do not substitute for calling the police when appropriate. Clearly, this tenant made an assault and that is a crime. Why the police took no further action is unknown to me but I suspect the management company employee declined to press charges. In some instances, filing an assault charge works both ways, meaning the employee may have been charged as well and decided to drop the charge. There is nothing the association can do about that. However, if the bag of garbage opened up and littered the property during the scuffle and you have a preexisting rule in place against littering, by all means enforce that rule. If this tenant is a problem in other areas (parking, noise violations, etc.) keep an eye on them and issue fines accordingly. However, be sure to be fair in your administration of fines and violation notices. The same scrutiny applied to this tenant need to be applied to all residents or the association could find itself defending against a discrimination suit. I hope you are able to restore the peace to your community. Good luck!