There is concern on the part of every American as to what they should be doing with the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It is no different when it comes to Property Owners Associations (POA). Each distinct type of POA has its own concerns. For general information about steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 the Community Association Institute (CAI) has a page dedicated to the Coronavirus with helpful information for POAs worldwide. While residents need to make their own plans of action as to how they can stay healthy, the POA should be considering its strategy for continued operations.
Question 1: How Do I Notify the Community?
There is no need to send an email to the POA residents letting them know about the Coronavirus because they have been inundated with communications from the news media, travel and service providers that have their email address and others that have provided basic information about the virus.
For the POA, the level of communication must consider the facilities for which the POA is responsible:
- If your community does not have any common areas or community events, then your level of communication will be greatly limited to meetings, events or gatherings.
- If you have clubhouses, elevators, meeting rooms, workout facilities, swimming pools or other common areas, the Board has some issues to consider.
The POA should not be responsible for guiding residents on issues regarding health and safety. Instead, the POA should provide residents with helpful links and resources that help educate and assist in determining their best course of action from:
- Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- National Association of County and City Heath Officials
With the CDC recommending large gatherings be held to a minimum, POAs should:
- Use electronic communication instead of in-person meetings
- Use POA sponsored social media and text messages to disseminate information.
- And remember, do not include opinions, editorials or hypotheticals in official communications to community members.
For the employees of the POAs or those with close contact with residents, such as association staff, high-rise concierges and valets, it may reach a point where the association staff is required to work from home, and non-essential services may be suspended.
If the POA is advised of a confirmed case of COVID 19 within the POA, the POA should not mention any names or disclose this information to the residents. Instead, allow the County and/or City to decide what information to disseminate. Please remember that federal and state HIPAA laws prohibit groups from identifying a person’s medical information without a person’s consent. Direct residents with questions to the appropriate contacts referenced above.
Question 2: What Can the POA Do to Limit the Potential Spread of Illness?
To curb the potential spread of germs, CAI has provided helpful tips communities may want to consider including:
- Extensive cleaning, disinfecting, or wiping down of common area and common area surfaces (following CDC guidelines)
- Postponing or cancelling community events and meetings
- Closing common areas and amenities, such as gyms, clubhouses, and pools
- Installing hand sanitizer dispensers and wipes in common areas for resident and guest use
For condominium POAs with a central lobby area for residents that cannot be locked down, establishing a regular cleaning and disinfecting procedure is crucial to preventing the spread of the virus, again following CDC guidelines.
Question 3: Can/Should the POA Continue to Hold Board Meetings?
As organizations take daily action to cancel events around the world, POAs are questioning how they can (and whether they should) continue to hold board and member meetings.
Board meetings may be held electronically and telephonically using conferencing platforms such as:
The notice for the board meeting must contain instructions to give residents access to observe the meeting. These platforms may also be used for the resident forum portion of a meeting, if one is part of the agenda. Executive sessions may also be held on these platforms. POAs should consult with their attorney, review their governing documents, and state regulations to ensure proper procedures are followed with regard to the scheduling of remote meetings.
Question 4: Can/Should the POA Hold Its Annual Meeting?
At this time, annual meetings should be postponed because of the various recommendations and restrictions placed by the CDC and other governmental agencies where the POA is located.
If the POA wishes to proceed with the Annual Meeting, it should, if possible:
- Utilize absentee or electronic ballot voting and hold the annual meeting electronically.
- Consider holding the Annual Meeting electronically in accordance with state law.
As with board meetings, please refer to the POA’s governing documents, state law and consult with the POA’s attorney to ensure proper procedures are followed.
It is imperative that POAs remain calm when communicating to its residents with regard to COVID-19. As COVID-19 continues to develop, please monitor the actions of and statements made by local health officials, the POA’s management team and the POA’s attorney in order to determine how best to proceed as everyone makes their way through this evolving situation.