Questions and Answers that will Help Associations Navigate the Pandemic
By Stanley Feldsott
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty in this country, including with homeowners associations. We have received several questions from associations regarding the current ‘Stay at Home’ order and how to properly protect members, staff, and service workers. These commonly asked questions will hopefully provide your association with answers and guidance during these trying times.
Should we still be collecting assessments?
Yes. Collecting assessments is a duty imposed on the board and each director by the CC&Rs, the Bylaws, and case law. Even during the pandemic, associations must continue to collect assessments to operate and pay bills.
Can we waive assessments for members?
No. Associations cannot waive assessments. Associations can, in appropriate cases, waive late fees and penalties. Associations can also explore payment plans with homeowners on a case-by-case basis. But, under no circumstances should associations waive assessments.
What should we do if a homeowner stops paying their assessments?
It should be business as usual. Do not waive late fees or penalties. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to notify the association of any financial change (losing a job, etc.) that affects the homeowner’s ability to pay assessments. If the homeowner would like to request a payment plan with the association then it is the homeowner’s responsibility to request one.
What services are exempt under the ‘Stay at Home’ order?
The order exempts essential services such as gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, and laundromats.
Are HOA services considered ‘essential’?
Management services, including association operations, are essential. Associations still need to protect members and provide services during the pandemic. The most important thing for homeowners associations to remember is to be reasonable and use common sense. Having a skeleton crew available for plumbing/maintenance emergencies, package deliveries, security, and anything necessary to protect the membership and association property is perfectly acceptable.
Can we still hold board meetings?
Yes. Boards should continue to hold meetings but the meetings should be virtual to maintain social distancing. There are several services, such as Amazon Chime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype, that can help facilitate a board meeting. However, with new security concerns popping up every day, be sure to research which service is the safest for your meeting.
Can we keep our pool, clubhouse, and other amenities open?
While it might be reasonable to provide certain services, associations should close all non-essential amenities such as pools, clubhouses, gyms, spas, tennis courts, playgrounds, etc. Use common sense when making these decisions. If keeping an amenity open means a large group of people could gather, then it should be closed. Consider putting up signs or closing off the area.
Can we take the temperature of service workers before performing services at the association?
HOAs have a duty to protect members. Taking the temperature of vendors and service workers before entering the association is reasonable and protects members from a possible outbreak. If your association decides to take this approach, ensure that proper procedures are taken to protect the vendors or service workers. Use forehead thermometers and disinfect it after each use.
Can we require service workers to wear masks and gloves before performing services at the association?
Similar to taking temperatures, requiring the use of masks and gloves is reasonable and protects members. However, just in case a vendor or service worker does not have their own mask or gloves, it is a good idea for associations to have additional masks and gloves to provide to them.