Legal Tips – Should the Association Accept Packages on Behalf of Residents?

A common problem in the age of Amazon delivery, Instacart Grocery, and Pea Pod, and especially around the holidays, is what an association should do with all the packages that arrive on an hourly basis for the residents. While many larger associations have receiving rooms or door staff with carefully drafted policies on accepting these packages, far more associations do not have the personnel to accept the packages on a consistent basis.

So what’s the association to do? Should it allow the boxes to pile up inside of a mailroom? Tell residents that somebody must be home to accept the packages or they will be tossed out with the garbage? Should the board and management simply cover its eyes and ears and pretend not to notice the boxes piling up and hope that there’s no lawsuit for liability when somebody’s iPad is stolen and that person sues the association?

All of these are good questions that an association must consider. Fortunately, the board has choices in dealing with the issue. If, after making a cost/benefit analysis (weighing the risks of liability to the association by having a manager or engineer accepting/signing for packages on behalf of residents) the board decides to accept the packages, then the board should have residents who want to use the service sign a release form, waiving any claims against the association for lost, stolen or damaged packages. The mandate that owners who wish to have packages accepted during the day must sign the waiver should be included in the association’s rules and regulations. If the board decides not to receive packages, it should make that a formal policy in the rules and regulations as well.

To recap, the board’s options are as follows:

  1. Demand a signed release form from each resident who wishes to have the association sign for packages. The release form should be carefully drafted to ensure that the owner or resident authorizing the association to accept the packages waives any claims against the association for lost, stolen or damaged packages in exchange for the association agreeing to accept them or sign for them on the resident’s behalf. At the very minimum, the association’s “Mail and Package” section of the rules and regulations should be amended to waive any claims against the Association for lost, stolen or damaged packages.
  2. The association also has the option to just stop accepting packages, making a formal policy to refuse any packages that require a signature. The board can pass a rule stating that the association will not sign for any packages delivered to the association and that any owner waives any claims against the association for lost, stolen or damaged packages that are delivered and left within anywhere on the common elements/areas.
  3. Installation of package lockers – Certain companies produce and sell electronic cabinets that can be placed within the common elements and areas that allow the delivery service to drop a package in a locker and then send an immediate notification code to the resident who can access the cabinet on a 24/7 basis. This takes the association out of the equation as no one is obligated to sign for the packages.

Ultimately, despite the above options, there is no way to ensure that the association does not get sued by a resident. Any stolen package worth enough money may prompt a resident to sue the association to recoup the loss. It doesn’t mean that the resident is going to win the lawsuit, necessarily, but it does mean that the association should be prepared for that eventuality – the best method of preparing is to pass clearly drafted rules and regulations or require individual releases.

If the association does choose to continue to accept packages, a form of release should be signed before it agrees to do so for any Unit Owner or, at the very least, an addition to the rules and regulations waiving all liability for acceptance of packages.