Volunteer Help

An apartment manager must evaluate all activity with regard to potential liability. We must always ask the question: If someone is harmed by this action or condition, might it generate a liability lawsuit against the apartment management company or the owner of the apartment complex? Remember that your employees are subjected to a strict hiring process and, when employed, your company withholds and pays appropriate taxes and the employees are covered by Workmen's Compensation Insurance and maybe additional insurance paid by your company. If you accept volunteer help, none of these requirements are in effect. If someone suffers harm while doing volunteer work for your company, the company may face a legal and financial problem.

An apartment manager is a responsible agent of the management company. A seemingly innocent act, when one holds an official position, may constitute employment. Example: The US post office branch is on X street. A tenant you know is planning to drive on X street to the shopping mall. You ask, "Would you drop these company letters in the curb letter box as you pass the post office?" The tenant has a serious automobile accident while pulling away from the curbside letterbox. Was the tenant employed by your company? Could your company be held legally and financially liable?

In the above example the tenant could have volunteered to do the errand; the consequences would not be different. A tenant who volunteers to perform a task may have good intentions, but the offer should be declined.

It is also the case that your employees should not perform tasks for tenants. Doing so drains resources that are needed for assigned job performance. An exception exists if your company provides concierge service.

In a case known to the author, an apartment manager disciplined children by requiring them to do chores on the apartment complex property, e.g. pick up trash. The act may have constituted employment of minors. The manager had neither the right to discipline the children nor the right to employ them. At the outset of the Twenty-First Century, America is a very complex, regulated society with an ever increasing number of proscriptions and prescriptions we must observe.