Considerations for HOAs and CAs During the Pandemic
Now that the governor has begun the process of gradually opening up most parts of the State of Florida for a gradual return to a semblance of normalcy, it is worthwhile for the Boards of Directors of Home Owners Associations and Condominium Associations to consider certain actions that will help them cope with the changes in policies and procedures that will necessarily be part of that reopening. The Pinellas County Commissioners have agreed to follow the recommended limited opening steps suggested by the governor.
Community pools were allowed to open, effective April 30, with certain restrictions as to occupancy and social distancing. These guidelines are available at the county website, www.pinellascounty.org, and have been widely published. More granular considerations for Boards and Property Managers to undertake as they reopen their pools might include the following:
- Placing signs at the entrance of your pool facilities reiterating the new capacity and distancing recommendations, including exercise classes if you hold them at your complex
- Removing some percentage of the deck chairs and tables so that lower density is encouraged (and storing them in a convenient place)
- Increasing the frequency of pool and pool facility cleaning (especially bathrooms) by your pool cleaning vendor to eliminate any residual traces of virus that might adhere to surfaces on which it can last for 24 hrs or longer.
Occupancy at this time of year is generally not a problem and the typical snowbird is stuck for a while up north so density concerns should not be too overwhelming.
Now is a good time to look at your finances as well. With widespread unemployment and the extreme difficulty the Florida unemployment system has had in handling the surge of unemployment claims, Boards should expect a drop in revenues from residents squeezed for cash and unable to make their monthly dues payment. Their cash squeeze can turn into your cash squeeze depending on the makeup of your community population. Projects or expenditures that can possibly be delayed should be reviewed. Check the status of your reserves and whether they can be used if needed given certain cash shortfall situations. Check with your property manager and foreclosure attorney as to the ability to continue to lien delinquent properties. Consideration might be given to deferring or waiving any late payment fees given the difficulty the federal and state governments have had in delivering relief checks. Alternatively, if your cash position is healthy, contracting for planned improvements now, while vendors are anxious for work, might result in lower costs assuming they are performed by essential providers. Check your insurance policies as to the potential liability of the Board in certain situations and as to loss from catastrophic events. Believe it or not, hurricane season is only a month away.
Finally, with more walkers, joggers, and bike riders out and about, check that your guidelines and common-sense practices are clearly posted on your website. This is especially true if your sidewalk situation is limited. Reminders that pedestrians should walk against the traffic flow and that bikers should not ride so as to block automobile traffic are useful. Similarly, rules on golf cart usage should be reviewed. Additionally, signage at automotive entrances that more pedestrians and bike riders are using the grounds and requesting drivers adjust speed and attention to accommodate this increased non-auto traffic will be appreciated.
There may also be particular circumstances in your community or neighborhood that also deserve your consideration; boat ramps for example. If your community has a high percentage of elderly residents, a voluntary system of “friendly checks” might be well received. Whatever the circumstances in your community, now is a good time for Boards to address the situation and make sure clear and timely information is provided to their residents.