A Black Boy A Fashion Statement And A Community At Risk

The Trayvon Martin case has stirred passions all over the world because of its racial undertone but now a US homeowner’s rights advocate wants an investigation of the role of the homeowners association in the slaying.

A black unarmed teenager was shot and killed inside a gated condominium community by a neighborhood watch volunteer who claims to have acted in self-defense. The boy was armed only with a packet of sweets. Following the fashion of the day, he was wearing a hoodie.

No charges have been laid and reactions have varied. One US journalist has written black boys have only themselves to blame if they dress like this and get killed! President Obama has commented, ‘If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.’ The Miami Heat basketball team has lent their support to moves for the case to be further investigated by being photographed wearing hoodies.

The home owners association (the US equivalent of our owners corporations and bodies corporate) publicised and supported the neighborhood watch program championed by the killer. He was described in the HOA community newsletter as their ‘Captain’.

The ‘Captain’ should be afforded the presumption of innocence unless and until charges are laid. However, this aspect of this tragic case does raise for consideration the responsibility of strata communities when they allow their organization to become a host forum for activities not directly related to the simple statutory functions for which strata bodies exist.

As I argued recently at the Australian College of Community Association Lawyers conference, owners corporations and bodies corporate have limited powers because they have unlimited liability for members. We should remember this risk when over zealous members push personal agendas too hard.

ACCAL Paper – ‘Are Body Corporate Powers Enough?’

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