COVID-19: EXECUTIVE ORDERS, RESTRICTIONS, AND WHAT HOAs SHOULD DO

In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, on March 19, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a mandatory Stay at Home executive order. The order requires all California residents with non-essential jobs to “stay home or at their place of residence” for the immediate future. It is important to fully understand the order, how it affects homeowners associations, and which services are considered essential and exempt from the order.

The website cited in Governor Newsom’s executive order provides:

“The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government services, schools, childcare, and construction, including housing construction.”

     Newsom’s order defines workplace exceptions as those included on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s list of “critical infrastructure sectors.” Federal critical infrastructure sectors include:

–             Chemical

–             Communications

–             Critical Manufacturing

–             Commercial Facilities

–             Dams

–             Defense Industrial Base

–             Emergency Services

–             Energy

–             Financial

–             Food & Agriculture

–             Government Facilities

–             Healthcare & Public Health

–             Information Technology

–             Nuclear Reactors, Materials & Waste

–             Transportation Systems

–             Water

Associations should not ignore the order. However, HOAs also can’t stop all services and let the association property go to ruins. The order exempts essential services such as gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, and laundromats. Management services, including association operations, should be considered essential. HOAs still need to protect members and provide services during these trying times, but associations need to be smart about it.

The most important thing for a homeowners association to remember is to be reasonable and use common sense. It is reasonable for an HOA to have a skeleton crew available for plumbing/maintenance emergencies, package deliveries, security, and anything necessary to protect the membership and association property. It is unreasonable to keep the pool, spa, gym, tennis courts, and clubhouse open.

With every decision, HOAs need to consider what can be done to manage the association without putting people in harm’s way. For instance, boards should still continue to hold meetings but the meetings should be virtual to maintain social distancing. There are several services, such as Amazon Chime, Google Hangouts, and Skype, that can help facilitate a board meeting. Common sense is key.

Remember, even with the Governor’s executive order in place, there are still various counties and cities within the state that have similar or stricter orders in place. Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and San Francisco all have restrictions. Be sure to research your association’s county and/or city to verify the rules in your area. If you are still unsure, contact an experienced law firm for guidance to confirm your HOA is following all state, county, and city guidelines.