Beaumont Tashjian Law Blog

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

COVID-19: What is Next?

In a post-pandemic world, your community association has likely made significant and sudden changes to its operations and protocols. Since March, boards and managers have been tasked with responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and implementing new procedures, transitioning to virtual meetings, closing or restricting common areas, etc., as state and local health officials continue to revise/update their guidance and mandates, based upon best available information. 

Almost six months after Governor Newsom first declared a state of emergency, what have we learned, and how should your community be responding moving forward? Depending on the location of your community and its unique facets, such as size, demographics, budget, staff and range of common area amenities, the answer to this question will certainly vary.

First, read your local jurisdiction’s health department’s orders. Most, if not all counties, will have issued “reopening protocols” or other mandates that may or may not apply to shared residential facilities (swimming pools, fitness centers, parks, etc.). If your county health department has not specifically issued guidance for shared residential facilities or homeowners associations, it may be prudent to consult with legal counsel to determine what, if any, mandates could apply to your community or would create a risk of liability if not followed. 

Even jurisdictions which have in fact issued guidance for homeowners associations, the language may not be consistent or abundantly obvious. For example, Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health has issued its Order, “Reopening Safer at Work and in the Community for Control of COVID-19,” which discusses protocols for reopening swimming pools in “shared residential facilities,” but it does not discuss how community leaders should be tasked with controlling or managing risk in other common facilities (i.e., fitness centers, clubhouses, parks, greenbelts, tennis courts, etc.). It also does not specifically address how to proceed with association board meetings (whether in person or via video conference).

For these issues not specifically addressed by the county, community leaders may need to extrapolate and get creative. For instance, as stated above, Los Angeles County’s Order does not address how to proceed with association board meetings, but it does provide that businesses in general can proceed with operations vis-à-vis remote meetings/communications. Of course, social distancing (i.e., maintaining a physical distance of six feet or more with other non-household members) is still recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State. So the argument can be made that meeting in person is doable, if social distancing can be ensured. 

Indoor fitness centers may or may not need to remain closed, depending on your local orders as well. Los Angeles County continues to mandate their closure, though the Order does not specify or single out shared residential fitness centers. Whether or not to consider your fitness center subject to the Order and to decide to keep it closed will depend on your community. Is the fitness center regularly used and crowded? Is the association able to implement a reservation protocol wherein its capacity would be limited to one household at a time? Would a monitored reservation system be feasible based upon the association’s budget and logistics? 

These are all issues that should be ironed out with your association’s legal counsel, as the COVID-19 research and county orders based on said research are continuing to evolve. When in doubt, at this time, it is best to err to the side of caution by proceeding with video conference meetings and considering your common area facilities subject to your county’s health orders. If facilities are being reopened (based upon county orders or legal counsel’s advice), appropriate waivers should be implemented and signed by residents who wish to use these facilities. 

In all instances, wearing a facial covering while traveling through common areas is required, as this is an order from the State level. To help create consistency in responding to the current pandemic (or future pandemics), as county orders continue to change, boards should implement a pandemic response policy or adopt protocols and rules which give homeowners and residents advanced notice of how their membership privileges may be impacted by these unprecedented events. 


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