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One of the big questions facing associations at this moment is whether to go through the process of opening the pool. Should we do it now, as most pool companies are pushing—or should we wait and see what happens in a month? What if we haven’t even signed our pool contract? Should we sign it or just forget this season?
The decision is largely a business one, as the particular facts and circumstances of associations vary greatly. There are, however, a few key concerns that face all associations:
- Will the pool be damaged if we don’t open it and run the filtration system?
- If we have a signed contract, will we be liable to the contractor for the entire amount?
- If the “social distancing” requirements are lifted, do we want to be ready or risk facing an angry reaction from the owners? Or if this continues, will we be criticized for wasting our members’ money?
First, our research indicates that even if pools are not going to be open for swimming this season, it is necessary to open, chemically treat and run the filtration system from a pool health standpoint. There is a real possibility that if you don’t open the pool, the pool surface may become irretrievably stained and there might be permanent damage to the filtration system. Remember that if it’s opened but not used, you need to keep it running and maintained but at a reduced level (sufficient to protect the pool but not suitable for swimming).
In dealing with an ill resident, maintenance and repairs within homes also need to be taken into consideration. Non-essential maintenance or service within a home should be avoided to prevent inadvertent spread of infection.
The HUD guidelines indicate that where immediate maintenance or repair is required within a home, maintenance staff or contractors may ask whether any resident in the home has contracted the disease. Persons who do not feel safe entering a home cannot be required to do so. However, if maintenance or repair is necessary to protect health or safety, the staff or contractor should take appropriate protective measures when entering the home, including utilizing personal protection equipment and following public health and CDC recommendations.
We do not believe that any special notice besides warning the virus has been reported is required in the unfortunate case of a death. It is important to notify residents of an occurrence of the illness so that they may take recommended precautions, but the precautions to be taken by other residents do not change because an ill person has died. Where an association routinely announces resident deaths in order to share its condolences, we suggest that the association suspend that practice to avoid giving an impression, possibly incorrect, that all recent deaths are due to the virus and thereby spread further anxiety.
Should we report residents’ illnesses to other residents?
There are no statutes that require community associations to report residents’ illnesses to other residents. On the other hand, associations may not simply ignore the public health risk created by residents who have a communicable disease such as COVID-19. Although HIPPA laws regarding patient privacy do not apply to community associations, associations are obligated to respect the privacy of their residents and so must balance the need to warn residents against individual privacy.
Residents’ identities should not be disclosed without their consent
Guidance for community associations is available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines for multiple housing. HUD advises that housing providers may give notification of positive COVID-19 cases to other residents without giving the name, address or other personal identification of the ill person. Mere possible exposure to a person who may have contacted an ill person does not any warrant notification. If an association becomes aware of a particular resident who is ill, residents may be warned that a case of the illness has been reported and advised to undertake protective measures for themselves:
The Failure of a Condominium Association, Cooperative, or Mutual Housing Corporation to Apply for an Exemption to the DCA’s Housing Inspection Obligation Can Be Costly
The Bureau of Housing Inspection, a division of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), is charged with administering the New Jersey Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law. This law requires the Bureau to conduct periodic inspections of these properties in order to ensure that multiple family buildings of four (4) or more dwelling units are properly maintained and do not pose a threat to the health and safety of its residents. Condominium associations, cooperatives, and mutual housing corporations are considered multiple family dwellings for purposes of this law and these inspections.