Homeowners Associations

Keeping drones from being a nuisance in your community

We keep hearing that delivery companies will soon be delivering packages to our doorsteps by drones. Developers and realtors are using drone footage as marketing tools. Hobbyist and kids are flying them around in their spare time.

How should your Condominium or Homeowners’ Association handle the growing number of drone use from becoming a nuisance in your community?

While some board of directors just say they want to ban drones in their community, this is easier said than done as flying vehicles (such as airplanes or helicopters) have the right to fly over your community’s airspace and there are a lot of benefits to having as described above to having drones around.

So, rather than trying to prohibit drones, we suggest that community associations have their owners approve amendments to their governing documents to allow them as long as they are flown legally and do not unreasonably disturb the residents.

As for flying legally, drones can be defined as powered, unmanned, aerial vehicles that use aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, and designed to be recoverable. The drones need to 1) be registered with the FAA, to the extent required, 2) be operated by an individual duly licensed by the FAA, to the extent required and 3) be flown and utilized only in accordance with the FAA and other applicable governmental requirements.

As for not disturbing the residents, the drones need to 1) be flown within the community in a manner not to interfere with an owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy, 2) not utilized in any fashion to spy or otherwise peer or take pictures into the residence of another owner’s property, 3) not utilized to harass any person with respect to private property or to the Association’s common property and 4) not utilized in a manner to cause injury to person or property.

It is good to add language to the amendments that make the operator of a drone liable and solely responsible for any injury to person or property which results from the use of such drone. If the operator fails to comply with the new amendments, the person shall constitute a nuisance and violation of the regulations.

To protect the association, the new regulations should provide that the association is not a guarantor or protector of an individual’s right to privacy with respect to any drones that are flown in the community and that the association will only undertake actions under the regulations if the association representatives have direct knowledge and evidence of a violation or following receipt of a written claim from an offended resident and subsequent inspection by the association and determination of a violation.

New technology develops much quicker than the legal rules and regulations that come slowly after once an issue arises, privacy is invaded, property is damaged or persons get hurt by it. That is why it is prudent to get ahead of the curve so your residents who use or are affected by the new technology will clearly understand what their legal rights and obligations are in relation to the new technology. Adopting such drone rules and regulations should help keep the peace in your building or neighborhood.

Rob Samouce is a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce & Gal, P.A. He is a Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development and concentrates his practice representing condominium, cooperative and homeowners associations in all their legal needs including the procedural governance of their associations, covenant enforcement, assessment collections, contract negotiations and contract litigation, real estate transactions, general business law, construction defect litigation and other general civil litigation matters. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time.