Beaumont Tashjian Law Blog

Monday, April 27, 2020

Preparing for the Aftermath of COVID-19

As we continue to adjust to social distancing practices and strive toward pushing forward with operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to consider what issues, questions and concerns may arise in the coming weeks when California's Stay at Home and other similar orders are lifted. Although orders may be lifted in the coming weeks, some form of social distancing is expected, recommended and may even be required to prevent another similar outbreak. With that said, associations should consider how to mitigate the possible transmission of the virus once orders are lifted and how to ease back into "normal" operations. We recommend adopting policies and procedures for post-quarantine operations in the community.
 
For many communities, a big question is how and when to open common area facilities. Once the orders are lifted and associations are no longer required to keep common area facilities closed, boards should consider implementing procedures and protocols for using common amenities and practicing social distancing. While recommendations will continue to change, this may involve implementing maximum occupancy requirements for certain facilities such as the gym or the pool, encouraging proper hygiene and respiratory etiquette, etc. Additionally, communities should continue with increased maintenance and sanitation practices throughout the community, such as providing personal protective equipment for staff, regularly disinfecting high-traffic areas, and maintaining hand sanitizer stations, if applicable.
 
Over the last two months, boards have had to make the difficult decision whether to delay or postpone meetings. At this time, boards should consider, if not doing so already, moving forward with virtual meetings to ensure that association business is addressed. The meetings can be held on Zoom, or similar platforms, to address issues that require immediate attention. Additionally, when a meeting is held, the board should revisit and ratify any board decisions made without a meeting and ensure the decisions are noted in the meeting minutes.
 
Boards may also be faced with requests from members to excuse assessments, reduce assessments, waive late fees and consider other accommodations related to assessment collection. It is important for boards to consider how to address and respond to these requests and assessment delinquencies. For example, foreclosures should be put on hold during this pandemic and we recommend consulting legal counsel to discuss how and when to pursue the foreclosure process. Additionally, while boards must continue to collect assessments, requests for accommodations should be addressed on a case by case basis and, where permitted, should be structured through a written agreement between the owner and the association. As a reminder, despite the common area amenities being closed, members have a continued obligation to pay assessments, as assessments are the lifeblood of the association.
 
Another matter boards will have to address is how to regulate vendors resuming work in the community. When orders are lifted, vendors, contractors and other individuals may be eager to get back to work and it will be prudent to implement guidance for those entering the community, such as the continued wearing of facial coverings, enforcing social distancing protocols, restricting the number of personnel entering isolation areas, and the like. The association controls and is responsible for the common area and should limit any potential claims of liability which might arise from allowing vendors to proceed with work in the community.
 
Finally, as restrictions begin to ease up, it is prudent to continue monitoring diagnoses in the community, imposing self-isolation rules for those showing signs of the virus and/or testing positive, and addressing how others in the community will be notified. While orders may be lifted in the near future, proper disclosures to the membership are recommended to mitigate transmission and the risk of subsequent spread of the virus.
 
As this matter continues to evolve, associations will see a range of responses from owners as to the operations and policies practiced in the community. Maintaining open lines of communication and providing information regarding how the association intends to respond to this ever-changing pandemic will assist with a smooth transition.
 
Each community is unique and therefore, we are here to help phase back into "normal" operations and guide you through these unprecedented and uncertain times. We are happy to provide a policy tailored to your community's needs to address operations and target potential issues, as the Stay at Home order is eased, and/or lifted. Contact our office for a quote to prepare a Post-Pandemic Operations Policy.

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