The Pool Key: to Withhold or Not to Withhold

The weather is warm, your Association's pool is prepped for summer, and Memorial Day is just around the corner. Everything is fine until the owners currently contesting their Association debt (the same owners whose case is currently set for trial in one month) call to request the pool key. Their son's birthday falls over the weekend and the whole family will be in town to celebrate at the pool. Your Association documents say the key can be withheld if the account of the owner is not in good standing. Do you give them the key?

The first thing to note is that "do you give them the key" is a very different question than "must you give them the key." Depending on the exact language of your documents and the process you might follow to deny them the key, you may very well be legally allowed to withhold the key. But think it through first. What could be a simple (and often very winnable) trial may be made more complicated (and thereby more fee-heavy) should the owners throw in a claim related to the Association's withholding of the key. Consider further the impact the decision might have on the community.

We would never make a blanket recommendation that you not withhold the key. The Association has a duty to enforce its rules to better the community. But, if you are faced with this decision, take the following steps:

1. Contact your attorney to determine whether you have a legal right to withhold the key and to determine the steps you must take to do so, based on your documents and relevant statutes.
2. If you have a legal right to withhold the key, consider all circumstances and the ramifications of doing so and weigh the costs against the benefits.
3. Make the decision that you believe is in the best interest of the community, regardless of any opinions you might hold about the case.

If you take these steps, you are on your way to building a stronger, healthier community.