With an increase in the amount and type of information available online, many homeowners associations have turned to increasingly sophisticated means of staying in touch with members. Associations are now supplementing the traditional newsletter with password protected bulletin boards on association websites and blast emails notifying members of upcoming events. As a result, residents have begun to expect more real time information from their associations on topics ranging from an association’s current financial picture to the location and names of registered sex offenders that may be living in the community.
While sex offender registry information is readily available from a variety of sources, an association should never identify the name or address of a purported sex offender or even the fact that a registered sex offender may be living in the community. Printing a sex offenders name in the community newsletter or on the association’s website exposes the association to potential liability from both the offender and other members in the community.
If an association prints names of registered sex offenders in the community and one name turns out to be wrong, the association may be held liable for committing a libelous act. On the other hand, if the association prints names of sex offenders and happens to miss one and that person goes on to hurt a resident – the association may be liable since it assumed the duty to warn and protect residents living in the association.
So, what may an association do? Understanding that residents have a vested interest in protecting the safety of their families and friends, it is perfectly acceptable for associations to provide information to residents on how they can find out for themselves whether sex offenders are living in the community. An association may publish information on where owners may go to obtain this information and even provide links on their websites to information portals. Websites such as www.criminalcheck.com or the website for the Sheriff’s Department in the county where your association is situated may identify registered sex offenders in your community. There are also several “for-fee” sites that provide the same information.