Condominiums and Corona: Managing Risk and Residents’ Expectations as Pennsylvania Recovers From the Pandemic

As we settle in to another week of pandemic life in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, residents of condominiums and planned communities may be susceptible to spread by virtue of their proximity to neighbors and access to shared amenities. Governor Wolf’s standing order, coupled with the CDC’s health directives, impose vague but important guidelines. As many of us anxiously, but cautiously, await the City’s transition from the “modified green” phase of reopening to the green phase, Associations should observe and implement certain precautionary measures to manage the risk of spread and their residents’ expectations.

MAINTAINING PRECAUTIONS

Communities where residents reside in close proximity to one another and those which provide access to shared amenities should continue to observe fundamental CDC recommendations, such as:

  1. Requiring employees and sanitation staff to wear latex or vinyl gloves when possible and to proactively wipe down commonly touched surfaces;
  2. Actively replenish all soap and hand sanitizer dispensers; and
  3. Supply additional tissues, disposable wipes, hand sanitizer and no-touch trash cans throughout the community.

Boards of Directors and property managers can be proactive by disseminating useful CDC recommendations for owners, residents, and employees to observe. A sample guidance list might contain some or all of the following CDC guidelines:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  3. Stay home when you are sick and refrain from using community gyms and other amenity spaces.
  4.  Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  6. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol.

REOPENING ACCESS TO AMENITIES

Communities may also consider requiring residents and owners using amenities to sign waivers as a condition of use. Although a general waiver of liability for the association and executive board’s actions is commonly found in an association’s governing documents, additional waivers specific to COVID-19 can serve as a reminder to residents that they are ultimately responsible for their own actions. In general, the waiver should place the individual on express notice that use of the amenities may expose that individual to the COVID-19 Virus. It should also expressly state that the individual’s decision to access the facilities is made “knowingly and voluntarily” with the full knowledge of this risk. A waiver for use of the amenities should instruct the individual to forego use if they disagree with the assumption of risk.

Owners and residents will quickly learn that use of the amenities and facilities will not operate in the same manner they are accustomed. Associations should consider limiting occupancy in pools and gyms to approximately 113 square feet per person (per CDC and FEMA guidelines) to maintain best social distancing practices. Associations could also make available for visitors hand-sanitizing products. Individuals should also be required to wear face coverings and maintain at least a 6-foot distance from one another.

In the event that the reopening results in a spike in new cases, the CDC recommends having a response plan in place which may include limiting access to nonresidents and the general public, postponing or cancelling non-essential meetings or conducting them over the phone or video conferences, requiring sick employees to stay home from work, and prohibiting the rental of community areas.

For more information or assistance with implementing any of the above policies or advice on guidelines, or with any assistance in other real estate or litigation matters, please contact Michael Phillips at michael.phillips@obermayer.com or Eric Freedman at eric.freedman@obermayer.com.

 


The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal or medical advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel or medical consultation, and should not be relied on as such.

About the Authors

Michael Phillips

Michael V. Phillips

Partner

Michael is a partner, Chair of the Zoning and Land Use Group, and a member of both of the Litigation and Business & Finance Departments. He is a multifaceted, highly accomplished leader...

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Eric B. Freedman

Associate

Eric focuses his practice on litigation, business and finance, and real estate services. As an attorney, Eric finds creative solutions to complex legal issues and has a long-held passion for helping others...

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