COVID-19, or the coronavirus pandemic, has caused many changes across the world. People’s ways of life have changed dramatically in some places. One of the ways that life has changed is in the way that homeowner associations conduct their business. Changes have been made for meetings, rental services, and community resources. Here are some ways that HOAs have changed their operations and how they have affected the HOA.
Rather than risking everyone’s life by holding meetings in tight quarters with many members present, homeowners’ associations have elected to begin holding virtual meetings. These meetings have been held via Zoom, WebEx, Google Meets, and other online meeting platforms. Meetings can be held in the evenings or on weekends just as before, but members can participate from home.
The move to online meetings has had a positive effect on these homeowners’ associations for the most part. They have seen higher participation levels from their community members. People are working from home more than ever. They do not have to leave the comfort of their home for work meetings, and virtual homeowners’ association meetings held after work are no problem. They can even attend meetings while cooking dinner, helping with homework, or attending a sporting event.
Limited Use of Facilities
Unfortunately, one change that has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic is that facilities community members had once been able to access for parties and gatherings have been off-limits. With social distancing and state mandates, many facilities have had to remain closed. For rentals, this was one way the HOA had raised money to improve facilities like playgrounds and swimming pools. These facilities have remained closed during the pandemic. With the drop in funding and usage, some of these facilities may fall into disrepair.
Sometimes HOAs would open their facilities to outside communities to help with the funding of their neighborhood amenities, and this pandemic has resulted in a drop in revenue. Additionally, with the relaxation of state mandates, common areas are beginning to reopen. HOAs are still obligated to regulate the use of the equipment. Common areas may require social distancing and mask-wearing if these are still state requirements. If your state has completely reopened, you can still require that a reasonable amount of precautions are observed. You are still obligated to ensure the safety of your community members.
Changing hours of operation and the closing of facilities has also limited the work for staff and assistants. Reopening means that these staff members are probably eager to return to work, but they should still enjoy basic protections. As an association, you can require guests to stand back or wear face coverings when interacting. Contactless interactions are generally preferred if possible. Of course, not everything can be contactless.
Each homeowners’ association operates to meet the needs of the community it serves. Sometimes, the mail or garbage is collected in a central location. Mail is then distributed to residents by the association. Garbage is retrieved by a waste management company. When this happens, there needs to be a contingency plan for homeowners who are quarantined or isolated and cannot leave their homes. You will want to protect staff and homeowners while maintaining convenient operations.
One thing to keep in mind when considering these changes to daily operations is that sometimes homeowners will not be able to mow their lawns or maintain their areas as well. You might need to relax these regulations for ailing homeowners. A notification system should be designed so that members can let you know if they are ill or unable to maintain their areas. You might even be able to create a cooperative group to take turns mowing the lawns and maintaining outdoor areas for sick members. This cooperative group would be voluntary, but it could help maintain the neighborhood according to your specifications.
If you have a system for notifying board members of positive tests, you must maintain personal medical privacy. The member would have to authorize board members to release their medical information. Medical test results are private medical data but are not covered under HIPAA regulations. You still need authorization before disclosing anything to anyone else. If the member has had contact with other members, they can also authorize you to tell these members of their exposure. Even if you want to tell the members, you cannot betray someone’s confidence without express permission. You could remind members to follow enhanced cleaning and safety protocols. You might be able to tell them that someone in their area has tested positive, but you cannot tell who it is without permission. It is a good idea to get written permission before telling your members that their neighbor has tested positive. You can get written permission through email to maintain everyone’s safety.
Enhance Cleaning and Safety Protocols On-site
The CDC, WHO, and other medical personnel have discussed things that we can all do to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Though many people are now getting vaccines, enhanced cleaning is a fantastic idea. Clean common areas more often and with more potent cleaners when possible. You will want to notify homeowners of these changes, especially if the chemicals used to clean change. Safety protocols like masks, social distancing, and limited capacities are also recommended, at least for now.
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There are many things we can continue doing to protect residents and guests in our communities. The safety of guests, residents, and staff should be our utmost concern. Be sure that you are following state guidelines, but remember that you can also enhance those mandates within your community. You can also relax rules that become more challenging to maintain during this time. Elderly residents may require extended guests to care for them during an illness, and any age member may not be able to maintain outdoor areas while sick. Likewise, residents who are home each day may produce more trash than those who used to leave for work. Meetings and communications can also be done virtually these days to protect all parties. What has your association done?
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