Community Associations and COVID-19- Plans to Re-Open
After approximately six (6) weeks of abiding by quarantine, social distancing and stay at home orders for Pennsylvanians (aside from those exempted as providing life-sustaining services), Governor Wolf recently published his plan to reopen the Commonwealth, on a county by county (or region by region) basis. The timing in which restrictions are lifted is wholly dependent upon a decrease to acceptable levels of the number of reported cases for a consecutive fourteen (14) day period. However, due to its high population and the number of cases, it has been predicted that Philadelphia and surrounding counties will likely be the last to reopen, including Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Schuylkill Counties.
Moreover, some community and condominium associations offering outdoor recreational activities/facilities are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel; as effective May 1, 2020, Governor Wolf announced statewide reopening of such limited activities, including golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds (so long as updated life-sustaining business guidance is followed). Additionally, effective May 1, 2020, public and private residential and non-residential construction may resume (in accordance with issued safety guidance).
As the lifting of restrictions is becoming more of a real possibility, homeowners and condominium association managers, board members and leaders are likely contemplating reopening operations. However, care should be taken that all new and applicable guidelines are strictly followed, and that the resumption of activities comply with each specific phase as authorized. Moreover, although reopening is certainly a positive step towards the hopeful conclusion of this pandemic, it is important to note that even counties that qualify under Governor Wolf’s plan for reopening will still be experiencing new positive cases of COVID-19 (the threshold is the need to average fewer than 50 new positive cases of the virus per 100,000 residents for a period of fourteen (14) days).
Based on the foregoing, many of the precautions that have been taken and recommended over these last six (6) weeks (i.e., increased sanitization of common areas, supplying hand sanitizer in common areas, ensuring staff continue to follow all CDC recommendations regarding hand washing and social distancing, etc.) should undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future. Associations may also want to assess adopting long term resolutions regarding sanitization and resident and staff safety in the event of a future, prolonged or repeated outbreak (and/or during flu season). Moreover, consideration should be given to the appropriateness of continued amenity closures.
In the meantime, in the absence of normally scheduled events or meetings, association management, board members and/or committees may find this to be an ideal time to begin house “clean up” items, including, but not limited to, review of the Rules and Regulations in order to ensure same are modern and in compliance with the remaining governing documents, consider the appropriateness of amendments to the Declaration and/or Bylaws/Code of Regulations in comports with modern ideas (electronic voting, teleconference meeting attendance, leasing, smoking ban, etc.), updating the community’s website, and/or ensuring Association records are organized and easily accessible if need be. In addition, reserve studies and budgets should be reviewed with the association’s engineering consultant and legal counsel, with special consideration being given to any pandemic related delinquencies.
We recommend that policies and amendments be discussed with association legal counsel and insurance representatives in order to ensure compliance with applicable laws and restrictions.
This article is not legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.