By Beat Koszinowski, CIC, CIRMS; The Buckner CompanySilver Sponsor 2020

The recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak put our country and our state in a very unpredictable and to some extent, terrible situation. Utah has recently started a phased reopening on certain types of businesses and operations. 

It is understandable that our customers and owners are excited to start using common area amenities and get to enjoy their pools and gyms.

While everyone is eager to get back to a normal life for work and recreation, there is concern on the part of every American as to what they should be doing with the outbreak of the COVID-19). It is no different when it comes to Homeowners Associations. Each distinct type of HOA has its own unique operations and concerns.  

Helpful links and information:

For general information about steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 the  Community Association Institute (CAI) 

Utah specific information https://coronavirus.utah.gov/

Attached  SL County Health Department information and  The Utah  Governor’s office guidelines

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html  

What does this mean for my community?

It depends on your type of community and your resident’s tolerance for risk.

If your community does not have any common areas or community events, then your level of communication and precautions will be greatly limited to meetings, events or gatherings. The impact should be minimal, but still requires extra steps to avoid any unnecessary risk or liability.

If you have clubhouses, elevators, meeting rooms, workout facilities, swimming pools or other common areas, the board and manager have some important items to consider.

The HOA should not be responsible for guiding residents on issues regarding health and safety. Instead, the HOA should provide residents with helpful links and resources that help educate and assist in determining their best course of action, see below:

Center for Disease Control (CDC)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

CAI

National Association of County and City Heath Officials

https://coronavirus.utah.gov/

With the CDC recommending large gatherings be held to a minimum, your HOA should continue to:

Use electronic communication instead of in-person meetings

Use HOA sponsored social media and text messages to disseminate information

And remember, do not include opinions, editorials or hypotheticals in official communications to community members

HOA managers and HOA employees:

For HOA employees and those with close contact with residents, such as association staff, high-rise concierges and valets, it is important that they adhere to the recommended or required guidelines.

If the HOA is advised of a confirmed case of COVID 19 that could impact the association, it should not mention any names or disclose this information to the residents. Instead, allow the City and/or County to decide what information to disseminate and how. Please remember that federal and state HIPAA laws prohibits identifying a person’s medical information without a person’s consent. Direct residents with questions to the appropriate reference points noted above. Additionally, community associations and board members must take care to avoid bias and discrimination against persons suffering from COVID-19 or any other medical condition.

What Can the HOA Do to Limit the Potential Spread of Illness?

 Please consult with your trusted experts and follow the posted guidelines, which may include the following:

Extensive cleaning, disinfecting, or wiping down of common area and common area surfaces (following CDC guidelines)

Postponing or cancelling community events and meetings

Maintaining the Closures of common areas and amenities, such as gyms, clubhouses, and pools

Installing hand sanitizer dispensers and wipes in common areas for resident and guest use

For condominiums and HOA’s with a central lobby, establishing a regular cleaning and disinfecting procedure is crucial to preventing the spread of the virus, again, following CDC guidelines.

Should the HOA Open its Pool, Gym, Clubhouse etc.?

Each community has its own unique needs and demands. You should consult with your legal professional and property manager to see if it is advisable to open your facilities, and how to follow the many rules and requirements.  Also, each community’s insurance, and the coverages offered are unique to that association. It is important to consult with your trusted HOA agent to discuss coverage questions involving your operations under the current COVID19 pandemic. In Utah, the HOA insurance act does not specifically address any insurance requirements for communicable disease. It is important to understand that this is a very common liability exclusion found under many HOA insurance policies, a sample of one form (CG 2132 05 09) is included here for your reference. 

The State of Utah publicly updated its phased reopening guidelines to include specific guidance for swimming pools. Also attached is the Governor’s executive order. 

The pool guidance on page 6 says:

  • Follow all social guidelines outlined on page 5
  • Pools are limited to lap swim only, one swimmer per lane: no congregating on pool decks
  • Swim team is allowed if social distancing is allowed on pool deck
  • Symptom screening
  • Maintain signage that always encourages social distancing guidelines to be met

To answer the most common questions we have received: 

“No team or group activities” under “Gyms & Fitness Centers” DOES mean no group classes (including yoga) and no congregate-style fitness centers like Cross-Fit. Fitness is meant to be individual in nature under the “orange” phase.

Swimming pools are open for lap swimming only. Not “open plunge.” Not swimming lessons. So, it is less about the type of pool and more about the activity allowed.

Wave pools, lazy rivers, splash pads, hot tubs, and homeowner association pools, … are not open under the “Orange” level. 

Employees in all businesses (retail too, not just businesses reopening tomorrow) are required to wear a face covering if they interact with customers OR if they cannot consistently maintain 6 feet of social distance. If their work is not with the public and they are not within 6 feet of coworkers, a face covering is not required.

As always, we are here to answer any questions you might have.  Stay safe and healthy.

Access additional state guidelines here.

 

Béat Koszinowski is an Insurance Executive at The Buckner Company, one of the largest independent insurance agencies nationwide. Buckner was established in 1936. Originally from Switzerland he worked for a large Swiss Insurance company providing business insurance services.
Since joining Buckner in 2001, he has developed a sizable client base with a specialty focus on Construction, Professional and Engineering and Real-Estate Insurance. Béat is a Certified Insurance Counselor, CIC and Community Insurance Risk Management Specialist, CIRMS.
He is an active Board Member for the Salt Lake Homebuilders Association (SLHBA) and serves on the education committee for the Utah Chapter of the Community Association Institute (UCCAI).