Community Associations and COVID-19
All of us have been hunkered down trying to stay safe and avoid contact with others while the COVID-19 virus runs its course. Our firm has been getting a lot of requests for advice on what community boards and owners should do to help in this effort. Here are guidelines for protecting your community during the pandemic:
Cleaning. Extensively clean, disinfect, and wipe down surfaces in common areas and amenities. Owners should do the same for their own private property.
Common areas and amenities. Close the pool, clubhouse, gym, playgrounds, business center, library, and other common areas and amenities until the risk of infection has been sufficiently reduced as recommended by our state and local governments.
Meetings and events. The CDC and federal government have recommended against any gatherings of 10 or more people. Consider cancelling community events and nonessential meetings, even if less than 10; err on the side of caution. If possible, conduct board meetings online by Zoom or other internet remote meeting platforms. Remember that under Ohio law, board meetings can be held remotely so long as each board member can hear, participate and respond. Annual meetings may be postponed until it is safe to hold the meeting.
Social distancing. Practice “social distancing,” which is the idea of maintaining a roughly 6-foot distance from other people. It also means limiting nonessential travel, avoiding public transportation when possible, working from home, and skipping social gatherings.
Staffing. The community may experience temporary staff shortages if employees or management personnel get sick or need to remain at home. Maintenance may have to be curtailed until staffing levels return to normal and the coronavirus pandemic is better controlled. Vendors should be limited to essential visits, and deliveries should be done without personal contact. All packages should be wiped down with a sterilizing agent.
If someone gets sick. Medical authorities are strongly urging all persons to stay home and avoid public spaces unless you need medical care. If you are sick separate from other people and pets in the home. The board may want to notify the residents that a COVID-19 case has appeared in the community, but there is no requirement that the board is notified of any diagnosis in the community due to HIPPA regulations. The board should postpone any hearings and application processes for any individual who is sick with the virus. If any resident needs to visit a doctor or get tested for COVID-19, call ahead before visiting your doctor and wear a facemask if you are sick. Everyone should be covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning hands often, avoiding sharing household items, and clean/disinfect “high touch” surfaces such as doorknobs, bathroom or kitchen fixtures, phones, keyboards or electronic remotes.
Delinquencies. Boards may consider waiving late fees during this time for accounts that become delinquent. Many community members may be out of work or receiving significantly decreased compensation. Also consider payment plans for those with higher balances but be sure to protect lien rights. Associations should not defer or lower operating assessments as the Association will remain liable for common expenditures. Collections should not be entirely suspended until further notice from Williams & Strohm, LLC. Please contact us with any questions about collections and assessments so that we can help board members and managers navigate these difficult times.
Call any member of our firm if you have questions about the COVID-19 guidelines. 614-228-0207.
Ms. Strohm has been practicing law since 2004 and is a principal of the firm Williams & Strohm, LLC. As a member of the Ohio and Columbus Bar Associations, she is admitted to practice in all Ohio courts and the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Read Robin Strohm's full bio.