Determining Whether or Not to Reopen Amenities
Posted on March 19, 2021 4:00 PM by Melissa Gentry
Since Governor Abbot rescinded GA-26 and lifted restrictions, it raises the question as to whether or not to reopen amenities. Even with the restrictions being lifted and vaccines becoming more readily available, it does not eliminate the risk of contracting the corona virus. If we do open them what kind of modifications will we need to take? We have been carefully researching and listening to the advice of multiple association attorneys. The decision comes down to cost and liability.
Recommended Safety Precautions
- Require masks to be worn at all times unless actively swimming in a pool.
- Provide sanitization stations.
- Enforce social distancing. Limit parties to no more than 10.
- Hire monitors to enforce social distancing and cleaning.
- Clean equipment between each use and keep a log of the cleaning schedule.
- Clean or remove furniture. Residents can bring their own portable chairs. If furniture remains, space at least 6 feet apart. Keep a cleaning log.
- Require waivers from all residents prior to using the amenities. The waiver should be reviewed or drafted by the association attorney.
- Do not allow guests. If guests are allowed, they must sign a waiver.
- No events that result in gatherings of more than 10.
- Signage in and around all amenities warning of the danger of COVID.
- Clean frequently or close restrooms.
- Implement a reservation system.
- Adopt a COVID policy.
Implementing all of these safety precautions will cost money. The first step is to list and estimate the expense for the precautions needed at each amenity. The association budget should then be carefully reviewed to ensure that there are adequate funds to support the necessary modifications.
Most insurance policies contain exclusions for outbreaks. If the association should be sued it will likely be the liability portion of the policy. Most insurance policies also contain defense costs. This includes attorney fees and court costs. In order for liability or defense to be covered, the loss must be insured and not excluded. The vast majority of liability policies include exclusions for the virus. The conclusion is that most insurance policies will not cover suits from the pandemic leaving the exposure and cost to the association. Defense and court costs can become expensive very quickly.
The board needs to weigh the expense of reopening precautions and staffing along with the vulnerability of the associations liability exposure to determine whether it is a practical decision. Contact your association’s insurance agent to determine coverage limits and exclusions. Reach out to your association manager to help determine if the association can afford the necessary safety precautions.
Most association boards are receiving feedback and pressure to reopen amenities. We understand the desire to return to normal and come together again as a community. The board has the fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the association. We need to actively communicate the expense and risk the membership. A plan will be needed to effectively communicate how the decision as to whether or not to reopening amenities was determined. These are not easy decisions and conversations. We are here to help and we will get through this together.