The coronavirus outbreak has plunged the affected countries to take precautionary measures. Homeowners associations must follow suit. Here are some coronavirus HOA community guidelines to abide by.
Coronavirus HOA Community Guidelines to Follow
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide recently went over 330,000. In the United States alone, more than 35,000 cases have been reported, 300 of which are from North Carolina.
That number is only expected to grow over time. In fact, the United States now has the third-most number of cases, just behind China and Italy.
Countries all over the world have imposed lockdowns and quarantines to restrict the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus. The same goes for the United States, where state leaders continue to encourage Americans to stay in their residences.
Public places are closing and businesses are allowing employees to work from home. Institutions, large and small, are doing what they can to contain the infectious disease.
An HOA is no exception. Community associations must know how to handle the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some essential COVID-19 HOA community guidelines to keep in mind.
Coronavirus and HOA Responsibility
The first thing your HOA must determine is if it has a responsibility to protect the health of community members. After all, an HOA must protect itself from legal liability. Should a resident claim the HOA is to blame for them contracting the virus, they must have grounds for the accusation.
Your HOA must refer to the governing documents to find out whether it has a duty to protect the “health and welfare” of its members. Such provisions may be found in the Articles of Incorporation, By-laws, or CC&Rs.
On some level, an HOA does have a responsibility to keep members safe. This usually pertains to making sure playgrounds are free from hazardous elements or keeping streets well-lit and the like. These tasks fall under the association’s primary duty to maintain the communal areas. As such, an HOA’s obligation to protect the health and welfare of residents amid the outbreak is limited to the common areas.
Coronavirus and Community Associations: What HOAs Can Do
Since COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person, there is only so much an HOA can do. After all, an HOA cannot force its residents to do something they refuse to do. An individual’s general well-being is their personal duty. However, there are some things that are within the HOA’s control. Consider implementing these coronavirus community guidelines in your HOA:
- Post CDC notices informing homeowners what health precautions they must take to protect themselves from the virus.
- Spray and wipe down common areas with disinfectants to limit the spread of the virus (this includes doorknobs, elevator buttons, handles, and anything else that frequently comes into contact with people).
- Put up sanitizing dispensers in common areas like doorways and elevators.
- Cancel community events to avoid assembling a large crowd.
- Ask residents to practice HOA social distancing by maintaining, at least 6 feet in between individuals.
- Consider the temporary closure of community amenities, such as pools, clubhouses, and gyms, to prevent people from gathering in these areas and potentially spreading the virus.
- If you choose not to close amenities, post notices asking residents to exercise caution when using them and to stay home instead if they are sick.
- Postpone board meetings or consider conducting remote meetings via telephone, email, or video conferencing.
- Set expectations by letting residents know that you are only following guidance from the CDC.
- Pacify residents by informing them you are staying on top of the situation.
How to Deal with Sick Residents
To avoid liability, an HOA should not ask residents whether they have COVID-19. It is also best to avoid asking about the residents’ country of origin or race.
In addition to protecting the HOA from discrimination claims, it is also imperative to practice confidentiality. So, if a resident does happen to have the illness, you must not reveal any personal information to others. Follow these coronavirus HOA community guidelines for dealing with sick residents:
- If the situation permits, inform residents that a person in the community has been diagnosed with the virus
- Ask residents to practice HOA distancing and adopt necessary steps to protect themselves
Furthermore, the HOA must make adjustments for sick residents and those with compromised or weak immune systems. For instance, if one such resident asks to have a violation hearing postponed or an application delayed, the HOA must accommodate the request.
How to Deal with Employees
Beyond sick residents, there are also some coronavirus HOA community guidelines when it comes to dealing with employees. Not all HOA employ workers, though, but if yours does, then you must also take their health and well-being into account. After all, you have certain responsibilities as their employer. Any HOA with employees must take the following into account:
- Ask employees with fever or respiratory symptoms to stay home until they fully recover (with no symptoms for a period of at least 24 hours).
- Send home any employees that display respiratory symptoms or contract a fever.
- Orient employees of the proper coughing and sneezing etiquette (it would also be helpful to post reminders around the workplace).
- Remind employees to wash their hands often and teach them how to do it properly.
- Prepare 60% alcohol, soap, hand sanitizers, and tissues for employee use.
- Ask employees to disinfect work surfaces.
- Tell employees who recently traveled or have been in contact with sick family/friends to refer to the CDC website for the proper risk assessment procedure.
- Have employees practice social distancing.
- Be ready to temporarily cease operations or continue through other means such as reduced workdays, work from home, etc.
- Reacquaint employees with the HOA’s sick leave policies.
- Should an employee contract the virus, inform other employees of potential exposure while still maintaining confidentiality.
Employees are not limited to HOAs, though. Vendors may also send workers to service the association, such as security guards, maintenance workers, and the like. Your HOA must stay vigilant and observe whether these workers display any symptoms. If they do, get in touch with their supervisor immediately. Request that the sick worker is sent home.
Working Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak
During these uncertain times, many people and organizations struggle to find direction. Some institutions are unprepared to handle a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Use these coronavirus HOA community guidelines to take charge of the situation in your association. There are just some things you cannot control, so it is better to focus on the things you can. Proper crisis leadership is crucial during these times.
If your HOA needs help implementing these guidelines, consider contacting an HOA management company. In that case, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
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