Unless you live in a cave (and HOAs don’t typically offer cave dwellings), you are probably aware of the Pokémon Go mobile game craze that has swept across California and around the world. Using cell phones and other mobile devices, players wander through neighborhoods, parks, and historical locales seeking and “capturing” virtual Pokémon characters at PokéStops and “taking over” Pokémon gyms.
Despite its popularity, the game has also presented problems for some homeowners. Several have filed lawsuits after players sought access to their property to capture characters. In one case, a homeowner opened fire on a car, believing the two Pokémon-seeking teens were criminals.
So what issues does Pokémon Go pose for HOAs like yours? Should you (and can you) do anything to limit or prevent the game in your community? Here we look at some ways you can keep your community safe and free from the more intrusive aspects of this game.
Request that the PokéStop or gym be removed.
The simplest solution is to submit a request on the Pokémon Go support page to remove your location from the game. The page provides a form to do this. Keep in mind that it may take time for your PokéStop to be removed, and making the request does not necessarily ensure that it will happen.
Give trespassers fair warning.
Game players (especially children) may not realize that your community roads and sidewalks are private property. They may also believe that it’s okay to walk around your common areas, such as tennis courts, pool areas, or the exterior of buildings. If you notice outsiders wandering around your community, first find out whether they might be a resident or a guest. If not, let them know that they are on private property, and ask them to leave. It’s also a good idea to post signs if numerous people attempt to enter the same area. Of course, you cannot prevent people from accessing public roads and sidewalks that may run through your community.
Involve the law if trespassers ignore your warnings.
If someone repeatedly trespasses in your community, call the police. Alternatively, your HOA board of directors can request an injunction to prevent the trespasser(s) from entering the property.
Invoke your governing documents if residents are the ones causing a problem.
No, you cannot prevent residents from strolling in their own community. However, most Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) address situations in which residents or their guests present a nuisance, obstruct common areas, or engage in behavior that could potentially raise your insurance rates.
Create specific Pokémon Go rules.
If residents playing the game are creating enough of an issue—and if your bylaws allow it—you may want to develop rules that specifically address Pokémon Go and similar applications. Possibilities include restricting the areas where residents can play and limiting play times. Be careful that your rules don’t conflict with California or federal fair housing laws, particularly regarding age discrimination. For example, refrain from directing rules only at children. Ask your HOA attorney and your community management company to review any new rules you want to implement.
Educate the community.
Explain to residents how your HOA is handling gaming within your community. You could do this at a meeting, in your newsletter, on your website, and via email or postal mail. You should also post a notice on a bulletin board or near mailboxes. Include the following information:
  • A reminder of which areas are private or public property
  • Safety recommendations for homeowners, for example, why they should resist the urge to invite seemingly friendly gamers into their homes, how to ask trespassers to vacate their private property in a safe manner, and when to call the police
  • Safety recommendations for gamers and the parents of gamers, such as watching for cars, carrying flashlights at night, and making sure children don’t walk alone
  • How HOA governing documents apply
  • Who to contact regarding issues around gaming
Pokémon Go doesn’t have to be a problem if your HOA and your residents handle it appropriately. In fact, it could even serve to bring people in your community together!

For more information on how your HOA can address Pokémon Go issues, contact FirstService Residential, California’s leading community management company.

Wednesday August 24, 2016