Sandra L. Gottlieb, Esq., CCAL and Tim Cline, CRIMS discuss reopening amenities in the midst of the pandemic, including issues on liability, insurance coverage (or lack their of), worker’s compensation issues, safety, health and welfare, and government orders. This is a hot topic on the minds of many board members and community managers. Catch the podcast here:
From the attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys
At the same time as the State announced that California has become the fourth state in the country to surpass 100,000 coronavirus infections and that 100,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19, Los Angeles County issued a new order allowing for community association pools to reopen so long as certain protocols are followed. The new LA County Order does not mandate that associations open their pool(s). The association’s owners and residents will likely make a demand on the board to reopen the pool; what’s a board to do?
The first thing is to acknowledge that compliance with the new Order will not be easy. Some associations may opt not to open or not open until the association is able to administer the required protocols. These protocols are important. Let us not forget that LA County is still considered a coronavirus “hotspot” and that means that we must all do our part to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The news is filled with stories of people in California crowding certain recreation areas, pools, restaurants and beaches and not wearing masks and how these conditions have led to outbreaks in other states. Community association boards that decide to open pools, must follow the mandatory LA County protocols. In addition, they must make sure that residents comply.
Follow this link to read the new Order/protocol that the County issued for opening the pool(s). This protocol must be adhered to at all times and provides specific guidance/restrictions/limitations on reopening and use of the pools, including the deck area.
SwedelsonGottlieb is sharing one of a series of webinars featuring founding partner Sandra L. Gottlieb and a panel of attorneys from across North America moderated by Andrew Fortin discussing how community associations are responding to and addressing issues about amenities arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
As we continue to navigate the wave of this pandemic, we continue to urge you all to take COVID-19 and your health and wellness seriously. Be patient and thoughtful of your neighbors, community and those who are suffering the effects of COVID-19. And for those that are not infected, we all need to wear a mask and socially distance from others when out in public.
Earlier this month, CAI released a Statement of Moratorium on Foreclosure Actions urging community associations to immediately suspend all foreclosure activity and not begin new foreclosure actions until June 1. We question how well thought out this position is as it is not all that realistic for California community associations.
Do not get this wrong. We at SwedelsonGottlieb are well aware of the impact that COVID-19 has had on our world and the fact that over 10,000,000 people filed for unemployment nationwide (so far). We recognize that community association boards are going to need to be sensitive to the fact that many owners may be temporarily (hopefully) unemployed and not able to timely pay their assessments.
As CAI said in its introduction to the Statement of Moratorium, the collection of community association assessments is a very serious and important responsibility of a governing board. Failing to collect assessments may impair a community association’s ability to pays its bills, provide essential services, acquire financing for continued operations, and may impact the ability of a potential purchaser to obtain a mortgage or impact existing owners refinancing of their loans.
Prepared by the California Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb
By now, most people have heard about the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (2020 H.R. 748). The breadth and scope of this Act, and the speed at which it passed both houses of a divided Congress and became law, is truly remarkable in these partisan times and speaks to the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Act is a massive stimulus bill that contains a variety of different programs of grants, loans, credits, debt forgiveness, and tax changes. Each of these programs is administered differently and has different criteria for eligibility.
Two of the Act’s provisions have become of particular interest to community associations: the federal Small Business Administration’s (SBA) new Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Grant program (the EIDL Loans which are available to HOAs), and the Paycheck Protection Program (the PPP which is not currently available to HOAs).
SwedelsonGottlieb would like to share one of a series of webinars featuring Founding Partner, Sandra L. Gottlieb, and a panel of attorneys from across North America moderated by Andrew Fortin, as they discuss how community associations are responding to and addressing issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
As we continue to navigate the wave of this pandemic, we continue to urge you all to take COVID-19 and your health and wellness seriously, be patient and thoughtful of your neighbors, community and those who are suffering the effects of COVID-19.
The spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19 has caused and will likely continue to cause unexpected interruption in the business of many California community associations. Many of our association clients are in the middle of large common area refurbishment and restoration projects. With increasing restrictions and/or recommendations by public officials and others intended to control the spread of the coronavirus, contractors/vendors may suspend or cease services/work and advance “force majeure” as a defense to the association’s breach of contract claim. It is important that board members and managers understand what force majeure means and how to respond when a contractor/vendor suspends or seeks to suspend their performance due to the coronavirus citing a force majeure clause contained in the contract between the association and the contractor or vendor. Follow this link to read SwedelsonGottlieb’s article that explains exactly what force majeure means and how it could impact your community association. And if you have Force Majeure issues or questions, contact SwedelsonGottlieb via email (email@example.com) or call us: 800/372-2207
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the community association industry both in terms of operations and morale. Community association members, board members, and community managers are presumably staying home to avoid contracting the coronavirus, and are not meeting in person. This seems to have led to a reluctance, by some association boards, to conduct business. Further, the social distancing requirements imposed by our State and local governments are eliminating social interaction that is critical to the functioning of the community. Along with this, the fear and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the mood and attitude of board members and professionals involved with operating the community association.
The disruption has become apparent and severe. However, we must examine the “silver linings” and “play with the cards we have been dealt” – so to speak – in order to preserve the integrity of our communities and functioning of same. The business that needed to be done before we all retreated to our homes to be safe still needs to get done and the longer boards wait to do that business, the more likely it is that there will be complications. Below are a few ideas that board members should consider moving forward in the face of this pandemic that may last for months.
1. Meetings. While in-person meetings should be avoided, associations may still be able to conduct meetings via conference call and/or videoconference (e.g., Zoom). The Davis-Stirling Act sets out a procedure for telephone conference meetings, but the Code requires that someone be at a physical location where the owners can listen to the call via speakerphone and participate during open forum. We believe that the ongoing pandemic would warrant a substantial compliance approach. That is, associations can conduct the meeting via telephone or video conference and attempt to comply with the applicable statutes, as much as possible, while at the same time complying with the State and City social distancing orders now in effect. This way, associations may still conduct business and hold meetings so that the common area components continue to be maintained, insurance policies do not lapse, and other obligations like enforcement of the Governing Documents are met. In other words, California community associations can still function while the board members and management are at the same time complying with government mandated social distancing requirements.
SwedelsonGottlieb updated its COVID-19 Community Association Guidebook on March 27, 2020. We put this Guidebook together to address our new reality and how California community associations should be dealing with the pandemic. We are all staying at home unless our jobs are essential and we are socially distancing ourselves from one another. The reality is that community associations cannot close down. Associations must continue to operate as they control the common areas where people live, and so much more. And the COVID-19 pandemic has created issues that we have never had to deal with in the past.
SwedelsonGottlieb is open for business; most of us are working remotely. And, we continue to receive inquiries from board members and managers concerning what community associations should be doing to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on their communities. As we explain in the Guidebook, we do not believe that community associations have any direct or legal responsibility to deal with the coronavirus itself as it is each resident’s responsibility to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19. That said, some commonsense things should be kept in mind and we address those things in the Guidebook.
To be clear, this does not mean that associations should not be implementing policies to address the coronavirus, such as taking steps to clean and sanitize to the extent possible the common area, close common area amenities such as pools, gyms and recreation centers or clubhouses. But there is only so much that associations can do. As we explain in the Guidebook, there are things that each California community association can and should be doing, especially when an association learns that a resident has contracted or been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, to limit liability exposure.