Car theft in a condominium: who pays for the damage?


Emma Potter

The problem of car theft in condominium areas not only creates inconvenience and material loss for the owners of the cars, but also raises complex legal issues regarding the responsibility and the compensation for damages.

Security in condominium common areas is often a source of debate and legal controversy, especially when security measures prove insufficient or inadequate. Let's find out together who is responsible for these damages and how this phenomenon can be prevented.

Prevention and legal responsibility

Preventing car theft in a condominium setting focuses primarily on implementing adequate security measures, such as functioning gates, active surveillance systems and good lighting.

Despite these efforts, the lack of a closed perimeter or technical failures can make it easier for attackers to gain access. In these cases, the question of legal responsibility becomes crucial.

Although condominium owners contribute to the cost of security and use of common areas, direct liability may not be immediately clear without an explicit contract outlining the terms of vehicle storage.

Legal cases and court decisions

The legal framework surrounding car thefts in condominiums has been clarified by several judicial decisions, among which the ruling of the Court of Appeal of Rome stands out. This ruling established that the use of the parking space and the contribution to the condominium expenses do not automatically imply a contractual responsibility of the individual condominium owners for thefts that occur in the common areas.

Furthermore, the Civil Code offers interpretative support: article 1117 states that common areas they are owned by all condominium ownerswhile article 1102 regulates the use of such spaces without altering their destination or preventing the use of others.

Article 1102.
Use of the common thing

Each participant can use the common thing, as long as it does not alter its destination and does not prevent the other participants from equally using it according to their rights. To this end he can make the necessary modifications at his own expense for the best enjoyment of the thing.

The participant cannot extend his right to the common property to the detriment of the other participants, if he does not carry out suitable acts to change the title of his possession.

These articles support the idea that without an explicit contract, the condominium cannot be held liable for car thefts.

When the condominium is required to pay compensation

Despite the general disclaimers, there are circumstances in which the condominium may be held liable for damages. There negligence in adopting or maintaining adequate safety measures, such as delaying the repair of a faulty gate, can attribute a share of responsibility to the condominium owners.

For example, if a theft is facilitated by a blatant lack of security that the condominium assembly has neglected to address, the judges can decide in favor of compensation.

The precedent established by sentence no. 8274 of 2021 of the Court of Appeal of Rome reinforces this perspective, underlining the obligation of condominium owners to actively promote safety and, if necessary, challenge inadequate assembly decisions.

Let's look at the sentence in detail.

In an apartment building made up of five buildings, protected by a wall with a single access gate, a doorman's guard and an electromagnetically closed gate, an accident occurs which triggers a legal dispute.

Two condominium owners suffer the theft of their motor vehicles and an attempted theft of a car, all parked in the condominium area. The injured parties take the condominium, represented by the administrator, to court, requesting financial and moral compensation and requesting the implementation of greater safety measures.

The Court of Appeal confirmed the first degree judgment, establishing that the use of the parking area by the condominiums does not automatically imply the existence of a custody contract for conclusive facts. Instead, this use falls within the scope of article 1102 of the Civil Code, which regulates the exercise of the right to use common goods without presupposing specific custody obligations on the part of the condominium.

Read also: Trespassing: what does the law say? What are the consequences for intruders in a condominium

Furthermore, the Court underlined that the installation of further safety devices must be decided by the condominium assembly. Therefore, it is up to the condominium owners to request the convening of a meeting to discuss and decide on these measures, also having the right to challenge any contrary resolutions.