AND THE CORONAVIRUS
I've received a lot of questions the past few days about allowing vendors on properties. I consider most vendors to be essential to association operations and should be allowed to continue to perform their duties.
Management. It goes without saying that management companies are essential. Without them, you can't collect assessments pay bills, and coordinate repairs.
Pools. With pools and spas closed, maintenance workers may not need to come as often but they still need to keep the pool clean and chemicals balanced. You don't want the pool turning green. It's more expensive to fix something than it is to maintain it.
Roofs. What about roof maintenance, repairs and replacements? They're essential. If roofs leak, you have to repair the damage, plus deal with insurance issues, and face potential litigation. It is much less expensive to keep your roofs watertight. Roofers are not in member's units so social distancing is not an issue. If roofers are willing to work, I would let them. Keep in mind, you may need to bid replacements now, enter into contracts, and schedule repairs during the dry summer months before the next rainy season hits.
Landscaping. As with roofers, landscapers do their work outside. They keep sprinklers repaired, which keeps plants from dying. Pruning trees is important if it involves health and safety of the trees or people. Stopping landscape services might be possible for small projects. What about golf courses? If you stop all work, it will be very costly to get the course back in shape.
Plumbers. If toilets are clogged or water lines leak, a plumber is s clearly essential. Keep them on speed dial.
Janitorial Services. Surfaces need to be wiped down, floors vacuumed or mopped, trash removed, and common area restrooms serviced. I consider this an essential service. If the workers wear protective gear and maintain social distancing, they should be allowed to do their jobs.
Contractors in Units. What about contractors hired by members working in their units? As long as they are in the person's unit I'm not inclined to interfere with the contractual relationship. The issue of concern may getting through the common areas to the unit. If contractors can use stairwells instead of elevators, I don't see an issue. If they need to use an elevator, they should be few in number and wear protective gear (masks and disposable gloves).
Resources. Following are COVID-19 guidelines from key sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Los Angeles Guidelines
Orange County Guidelines
San Diego Guidelines
San Francisco Guidelines
Disclaimer. The virus is moving faster than the law. This was passed to me and attributed to attorney Dan Eaton. If he said it, he is spot on. While I believe associations and their vendors can (and should) continue to operate if essential to operations and done safely, I can't guarantee someone else might strongly disagree. Boards should consult their association's legal counsel for guidance.
I received more emails than I could respond to. Following are some of them. -Adrian
Legislative Body. Some of the state government regulations narrowing the scope of various laws governing open meetings use the term "legislative body." Would a CID board be defined as a legislative body? -George H.
RESPONSE: Associations have already been recognized by the courts as quasi-governmental entities.
Audits. Do you know if the 120-day rule for annual audits/reviews has been relaxed for associations with December 2019 year ends (due to the COVID-19 crisis)? -Jeremy N.
RESPONSE: Not that I'm aware of. However, if your CPA can't meet the deadline due to the virus, I can't imagine any penalties will be imposed if the financial statement is late.
Disabled. I live in a retirement community of over 6,000 condos. Our pool and hot tub have been closed. We have many elderly and partially disabled in our community who rely on the pool for their only physical (therapeutic) exercise. They need a zero-gravity environment to exercise their joints and spine. Can our pool and hot tub be reopened to accommodate this population? -Roxanne S.
RESPONSE: Most, if not all, associations have closed their pools and spas--some under orders from cities or counties. Even if not under local orders, as a practical matter, pools and spas are problematic. If someone is unknowingly carrying the virus and uses the facilities, it will be passed to others. An association has no legal obligation to grant accommodation to a request that would pose a threat to the health and safety of others.
Extend Payment. We bill homeowners the first semiannual assessment on April 1, which is due May 1. Should we extend the due date a couple of months to help out financially? -HOA Board
RESPONSE: I would send out the assessment on schedule. You need the money to pay bills. If someone is out of work, you can work out a payment schedule with them.
Real Estate Sales. We recently sold our property in a gated community. We have a scheduled closing through an escrow company which we are expecting and hoping to happen early week. Considering the current climate and closing of non-essential business, do you have an idea of our chances to complete this transaction? -Marilyn S.
RESPONSE: The people needed to complete your sale should still be working. They may be working remotely but there is no reason they can't keep the closing on track.
Helping Neighbors. My neighbor and I want send an email to community members offering help during this time. We are proposing to go to the grocery store, run essential errands and the like. We feel that this is a good time to remind everyone we are in this together and we are all here to help one another as best we can. Before writing our letter, I thought I'd reach out to you to see if there were reasons for not proceeding. -Karen F.
RESPONSE: You are good souls. We need more like you. Full speed ahead.
Basketball. I observed four or five young people playing, bumping into each other, all touching the basketball and themselves. I saw large group of young people sitting side-by-side, eating lunch at a picnic table. -Lissa C.
RESPONSE: Young people think they are invincible. Right now, they desperately need adult supervision.
Virtual Meetings. Do the virtual meeting have to have a video capability or can they be done by conference call where everyone can join in? What are the actual guidelines for this type of meeting, it may be the wave of the future. We held one the other day and actually it was quite nice. Everyone who wanted to join the call did. -Ron R.
RESPONSE: Video is not required. You can do your meetings via conference call. At some point, we will publish some guidelines.
Prayers. Love your newsletter. Prayers for everyone’s safety. -Veronica N.
RESPONSE: Ditto on the prayers.
Texas Pools. I am a board member of a condo complex in Houston, TX. Over the past week, via email, our board emailed back and forth about what do while keeping personal contact at a minimum. We made decisions about closing facilities. I am seeking your thoughts on whether the pool should have also been closed for health/safety reasons. -Lynn R.
RESPONSE: I'm in favor of closing California pools for now for the reasons discussed in an earlier answer. You should consult legal counsel in Texas for guidance related to your pools.
My Photo. I seriously love you!!! Thank you for all that you do for our industry. I think some people would be completely lost without you. Also, love your new sign off photo. Hope that does not become a permanent clothing attire. -Andrew M.
RESPONSE: Many thanks. The mask may become a fashion statement. I could change the color to match my mood.
Humor. Glad to see you put that mask back on!! Keep on posting, we need your steady guidance and humor. -Donna G.
RESPONSE: The mask temporarily came off when the Governor locked down the state. It really gave me pause. The economic damage the virus is doing is as serious or worse than the health impact to individuals. It has put many businesses on life support and others have already died. I hope they quickly get this under control.
Election Inspector. Thank you for your update about the coronavirus. What is the minimum number of inspector we need to have? Before we used to have 2 one of them opened the envelopes, and reading who got how many votes, and the other person wrote down the numbers, and at the they both counted them. Is it still okay to do it that way? -Irene N.
RESPONSE: You must have either one or three inspectors. Keep the two you use but designate one as the inspector and the other as an assistant. Do that and you will be fine.
NOTE OF THANKS. I may be biased, but I think legal counsel to associations around the state provide an essential service to their clients. Thank you to everyone for keeping us employed. If we stay calm and push forward, we will get through this. If you need anything, call us at (800) 464-2817 or send an email.