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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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Subject: Multiple Thefts
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09/04/2021 7:19 PM  
Hello everyone, first time posting here, not even sure if this is the right place. Honestly, I am not sure if I should just suck it up and incur the costs associated with the incident I am about to describe, or if I should pursue any other means.

I live in a condominium with an HoA that has refused to replace a couple of bicycles that were stolen from our locked bicycle storage area. And this is within a secured parking lot (requiring an assess fob). Actually, several residents had their bicycles stolen from 2 locked bicycle storage areas in the same garage. My bikes had chains, too. The thief was able to enter and exit as he pleased via an emergency "exit" stairwell. He rigged the fire exit door in a manner which he could open from the outside. However, it is unclear how he was able to enter the garage the first time. The thief was able to access the same exit door multiple times, over a few days and made off with at least 5 bicycles. I believe I was the first to notice my bicycle missing and reported it to the HoA. A police report was made. And over the next couple of days the thief came back, and back, and back. All in all, he was able to gain access to a "secured garage", get through the "secured storage area", and cut through a bike chain, all while going unnoticed. The association refuses to accept responsibility and is not willing to cover the costs of replacing any stolen bicycle. By the way, the thief was caught on video footage, multiple times, and from multiple cameras. The police have been no help. Even after finding one of my bicycles being sold on Offerup. I would have gone in person but it was "sold" a couple of hours before I found the post.

Anyways, I believe this is to be negligent on the association's behalf, but I do not know enough about the matter. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.



09/04/2021 7:26 PM  
Our condo building has underground garages too. There are a lot of signs posted saying tha tthe HOA isn't responsible for damage, etc. to personal items kept in our storage lockers, which are in several locked rooms that can be entered only with fobs, or in the fob-accessed Bike Rooms, or in our parking spaces. Do you have such signs?

I suppose it's possible damage could occur that was due to the HOA being negligent somehow or another, but from your description, I don't see negligence. In what way do you think the HOA was negligent?


09/04/2021 7:44 PM  
I forgot that you might check your governing documents to see what they have to. say. Maybeyour CC&Rs (Aka: declaration, covenants, deed restrictions) or possibly in your Rules & Regulations.


09/04/2021 7:48 PM  
Yes, those signs can be found scattered throughout the garage.

I believe they were negligent in the sense that I told them there was theft going on, there was footage of the incident occurring, yet nothing was done over the next 2 days to prevent the same thief from entering the same way and stealing more bicycles.

To me it would make sense for example, to address any of the failures that allowed for the first incident to occur in the first place. It was more than one. The one way emergency exit door was rigged to allow entry from the outside. The wire fencing surrounding the bicycle storage area was cut with wire cutters, and never repaired. No emails were sent to advise of the incident, no warnings, no additional security measures, nothing. That just yells negligence to me.

Thank you for letting me vent.


09/04/2021 8:26 PM  
StephenS16, did you ask your home insurer if perhaps the bikes are covered? Granted I realize the deductible may be higher than the value of the bikes.

If I were 40 years younger, I too would be angry at the COA management and board. To have something of one's own, like two or more bicycles, stolen is a personal violation. However, I believe going after the COA with, say, a lawsuit is a huge gamble. Your attorney would have to prove the COA had a duty to you to do xyz. I am not sure this duty is all that clear here. Also arguably your bike was not sufficiently secured. "Chains are not enough," the COA attorney would argue. "You should have obtained a serious bike lock."

You could certainly pay an attorney a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars for a consultation. It's always good to have more information. Some attorneys might even answer your concerns over the phone at no charge. They might say it's not worth it, and talk a bit more about why it's not worth it. Some attorneys deliver wisdom and do so quickly.

I think you should chalk this up as a loss and yes, a lesson. In the future, seek insurance on the bikes (if they are expensive bikes), maybe under your condo unit policy. No more chains. Get a serious bike lock.

Also if you are angry enough, consider getting on the board.

Little aside: Some rascal stole my bike from a suburban train station in the NYC area when I was in college. I had the bike chained to a bike stand in broad daylight. I was not gone even overnight. The thieves broke the chain. I was so angry. I reported the theft to the police. A few months later the police in a town 10 miles away called and said they had my bike. I took a bus to get to the police station and confirmed it was my bike! The bike needed a tiny bit of work but otherwise, I enjoyed it for some years after this. Today the fact that the bike turned up and the police contacted me amazes me. I bought a real bike lock (one of those kryptonite style locks) and had peace of mind ever after.

Maybe your bikes will turn up.



09/05/2021 5:19 AM  
I think it's questionable going after the COA.

This was a crime, and associations aren't responsible for going after criminals - it's a job for the police. Maybe the facility could have been better secured, or "use at your own risk" signage posted - but ultimately you can't stop a determined thief and no association that knows it's business would promise to do so. (There is a reason that many biker owners bring their high end bikes into their homes.)

My take on it is that anything in common areas is vulnerable and that security measures are just interesting challenges for the enterprising crook, and that's why you have insurance.

Annoying as all get out when you're the victim, but there it is. Get a police report, your insurer will probably want to see it.

Story: One day a friend and I were going out for a walk and I happen to notice that my bike had been stolen from the communal bike lockup. I yelled "THIEVES! I'm gonna get my grandpappy's shotgun!" and we went for our walk. When we returned later, the bike was back. So the thief was one of my delightful neighbors who didn't want to meet Grandpappy's Shotgun. :-)



09/05/2021 5:50 AM  
You guys are right. I think my mental health will be better off taking the loss. Thank you for the replies and stories.


09/05/2021 5:59 AM  
Another story:

A couple of the buyers at a community where I worked were in Loss Prevention (different companies, different industries). The fellow who worked for a big grocery store chain said that there are organized gangs who specialized in hitting stores to order. People would call them up and place their food order, and then a thief would go and steal the stuff for them. Apparently this is one way to stretch your food budget. Who knew...?

These two buyers were full of interesting stories. Mr. Grocery Chain was an ex-cop, not sure about the other person.

Anyway, if big national grocery store chains have their hands full keeping the organized thieves from emptying their shelves, then it shouldn't surprise anyone that COAs/HOAs can't do anything meaningful to stop them. I'd be willing to bet that there are organized groups that go after bicycles specifically. These are not nice people, and doing much beyond physically securing the property is probably not smart unless the COA hires an off-duty cop to guard the area (costs money, may involve gunfire).


09/05/2021 6:37 AM  
I don't see any negligence. From your description, it sounds like numerous people have access to the area. Even if someone with access was not involved, the fact that someone got past the security system does not necessarily mean there is negligence.

The laws in every state are different, but usually, you cannot hold others responsible for the actions of a criminal.
(South Carolina)


09/05/2021 9:49 AM  
Posted By StephenS16 on 09/05/2021 5:50 AM
You guys are right. I think my mental health will be better off taking the loss. Thank you for the replies and stories.

I agree.


09/05/2021 11:12 AM  
I don't see how it's the COA/HOA's fault they were stolen. However, I do see where it is an expense the COA will need to incur to fix the exit door and/or beef up security. That is where their responsibility really is at. The damage THEY incurred not yours. Which is an exit door and maybe the need to change FOB's. etc...

Keep in mind security cameras do nothing to stop crime. They just record it. Thieves may avoid places with security cameras but doesn't stop them from doing the crime if they want. Just increases their chances of being caught.

When I was in High School I lived in a bad neighborhood. I had the "best bike" So it used to get stolen on a reguular basis. Usually found it in a few days and stole back.

Former HOA President


09/05/2021 11:28 AM  
I don't believe your HOA would be on the hook for the thefts, that would be for you to file a claim with your insurance carrier. Is your building Security Guard staffed 24/7? I would ask if this emergency exit door is alarmed to the fire control station so the guard is alerted and can investigate the door opening. Also are there surveillance cameras on the emergency exit doors and area where the bikes are stored?

Since you said the emergency door was tampered with to allow ingress from a door that is only supposed to be emergency egress, that needs to be corrected.
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