It is an unprecedented time in our country. Each day we turn on the news and hear new ways coronavirus, or COVID-19 is bringing changes to our lives. While we adjust to our temporary and new normal, life still goes on. And part of that is your homeowner’s association needing to function and carry out the board’s duties. So how can you handle coronavirus related HOA board issues? Below, we’ll discuss some common questions boards have, and scenarios boards are currently facing. We’ll also discuss some solutions for these as well.
Common Questions From HOA Boards
To start, here are some coronavirus related issues that HOA boards around the country are already facing:
- “We have a board meeting scheduled to award the contract for our landscaping. But we shouldn’t be in the same room—what do we do?”
- “We have a membership meeting scheduled for April, but that will far exceed 10 people—do we need to cancel?”
- “Our residents are concerned about if common areas are being cleaned well enough to avoid transmitting the virus—what do we tell them?”
Create An Emergency Plan
Most importantly, the Community Associations Institute recommends that associations review or create an emergency plan. Associations can do this with your legal counsel, insurance, and risk management experts. Some areas to then discuss are if your board can conduct business remotely, what decisions you want to make about common areas, and communication with residents.
Changes With HOA Board Meetings
First, one of the common coronavirus HOA board issues to arise is board meetings. The CDC has recommended reducing person-to-person contact. In fact, their guidelines say to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. They also recommend avoiding any unnecessary social gatherings. Your state could also have further restrictions on leaving your home or other activities. So with that in mind, how can the HOA board continue to conduct business in regards to board meetings?
In order to follow CDC guidelines and keep everyone as safe as possible, the board should consider postponing annual or special membership meetings. Some states allow meetings to be held electronically or over the phone. Some also allow boards to utilize “written ballots.” Check out whether your rules and regulations allow this, and you can still hold your meetings. Lastly, it’s also important to not forget that meeting minutes be taken and published.
Actions Boards Can Take With Common Areas
Next, some HOA boards have reported that residents have concerns about transmission of the virus in common areas. There are some actions the board can take to keep the community as safe as possible.
First, cleaning needs to be enhanced. Whether you have vendors who clean or employees who handle it, there should be more thorough cleaning, and more often. Cleaning and wiping down all surfaces and equipment should be happening regularly. A cleaner that has an alcohol content sufficient to kill the virus should be used as well. Remember that the association should never claim or represent that the common areas are “virus free.” There’s no way to guarantee complete sanitization as residents and guests continue to use them.
Secondly, common areas that encourage group gatherings should be closed temporarily. Examples of these areas include clubhouses, gyms, pools, and even playgrounds. The HOA board will have to use discretion on the best way to handle common areas that absolutely have to be used, such as laundry rooms. For these, social distancing guidelines should be posted and enforced. A laundry schedule could even be drawn up, for instance.
Third, if possible, the board should install hand sanitizer stations, and make cleaning wipes available in common areas. This can also help encourage residents to play part in keeping common areas clean and safe.
Lastly, the board should postpone scheduled community events. This is probably a no brainer, but events such as cookouts or parties should be postponed as well if there are any on the calendar.
Communicating With Residents
Last but not least, residents will have concerns during this time. And it’s important that the board communicates regularly to reassure them. Residents should know the steps the board is taking to protect the community. It’s also helpful to share CDC and/or local fact sheets so everyone knows all of the precautions individuals can take.
The board can be a great resource for homeowners during this time, which they will appreciate. Consider using a newsletter, website, email, social media or bulletin board to inform and educate. It is recommended that residents are informed about actions being by the board that is specific to the community. It’s also important that regulations and guidelines from the CDC, state, and local officials are also shared. And lastly, residents need to also be reminded to continue to check those websites to make sure they have the most up-to-date information and recommendations.
Above all, the most important piece of advice for how to handle coronavirus related HOA board issues is to listen to the CDC, state, and local officials for any recommendations they are giving. Furthermore, you should check your local government and CDC websites often for the most recent information. Guidelines are changing quickly, and you want the most accurate information possible.
And while the coronavirus is impacting everyone, HOA boards can still function and even offer assistance to residents. By not only following CDC, state, and local guidelines themselves but by sharing key information and keeping residents informed, the board can fulfill a key role during this crisis.