IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR FLORIDA CONDOMINIUM AND HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATIONS
NEW HOW-TO GUIDE ASSISTS COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS REOPENING
August 3, 2020: As COVID-19 accelerates disruptions for condominiums and homeowners associations, Community Associations Institute (CAI) has released, “Status Check: A Reopening Guide for Community Associations,” to aid and support communities navigating the closure and reopening of pools, gyms, playgrounds, and other common areas, amenities, and business operations.
According to CAI, as states began to lift stay-at-home orders, community associations have been challenged with questions surrounding how and whether to reopen facilities, and how to effectively phase in business operations. The common areas, amenities, and operations guidelines are organized by risk level or reopening phase, which are unique to each state, county, or city. In general, the high-risk category would apply to the shutdown and stay-at-home phase, moderate-risk to reopening phase one, low-risk to phase two, and normal to phase three.
The new guide is a timely resource available for homeowners, community managers, and business partners online as part of CAI’s interactive Coronavirus Resource Page and offers each individual community the opportunity to modify templates that fit the needs specific that community. Other resources include:
A sample letter template to update residents about common areas and amenities
Common area signage templates
Guidelines for community association common areas, amenities, and operations
“This is the best, most comprehensive guide for community associations today,” says Thomas M. Skiba, CAE, CAI’s chief executive officer. “As the leading authority in community association education, governance, and management, we believe it’s essential to develop solutions that directly help our members and community association stakeholders challenged by COVID-19. CAI has a long-standing reputation for offering world-class education, tools, and resources and we know our communities need answers to these questions and others that will likely continue as the pandemic surges in communities throughout the U.S.”
For more information about the impact of COVID-19 and community associations, visit CAI’s Coronavirus Resources page.
To view or download a copy of “Status Check: A Reopening Guide for Community Associations”.
To view or download a copy of “Healthy Communities,” COVID-19 & Community Associations Summary of Relevant Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines.
Two new Executive Orders were issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on April 29 which will impact community associations:
Executive Order 20-112 is a phased reopening plan for the state that may be supplemented by local plans.
Executive Order 20-111 extends EO 20-91 (the Safer At Home order which limited activity to essential services and essential activities) until May 4th. It also extends EO 20-87 (prohibiting new guest reservations and new guest check-ins for vacation rentals) through May 4th yet pledges to extend further by a subsequent order. So, the ban on vacation rentals appears to be an open-ended extension at this point, the final length of which we do not yet know. Stay tuned for the promised May 4th announcement.
On March 9, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order Number 20-52, declaring a state of emergency in the State of Florida. For condominium and homeowners’ associations, this declaration raises the issue of whether certain association emergency powers under Florida Statute 718.1265 (condominiums) or 720.316 (homeowners associations) are now available. These statutes grant special powers to association boards which are reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the association and the unit owners and others. Although enacted with a natural disaster in mind (not a pandemic), this public health emergency may certainly cause disruption in the association’s operations and impact the health of its residents. Among other things, the emergency powers statutes grant boards the authority to conduct board or membership meetings with notice provided in as practicable a manner as possible (including via publication, radio, United States mail, the Internet, public service announcements, conspicuous posting on the association property, or any other means the board deems appropriate under the circumstances) and authority to cancel and reschedule association meetings. Many associations are now considering precautions such as holding meetings via teleconference or video conference instead of in-person meetings to heed the advice from public health professionals for social distancing.
Following are some suggestions for community associations:
- Continue to monitor developments and follow the guidance of public health officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health which are updating their websites with the latest information.
- If there is a scheduled community association social gathering, consider postponing it.
- Review the applicable emergency powers statute and consult with legal counsel regarding the risks and benefits of invoking.
- For any upcoming Board meetings, consider holding them virtually by hosting an online broadcast and invite participants to join by phone or Skype. If unable to broadcast live, record the meeting and post online soon thereafter.
- For elections or annual meetings, contact your association counsel for advice on available options.
- Implement enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of all common areas of the property, especially any hard, touchable surfaces in lobbies, elevators, gym, pool, clubhouse and public bathrooms.
- Provide hand sanitizer stations and wipes in the lobbies for use by all residents and guests.
- Continuously inform staff and regular visitors of best practices.
- Practice social distancing and urge residents who have fever or other signs of illness to self-quarantine.
- Practice good hygiene.
- If you need to see a doctor, work with a medical professional to discuss transportation options. Per the CDC, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you may have it, you should not use ridesharing, public transportation, or taxis.
CAI’S GUIDE TO SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS
The Federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) provides long-term, low-interest loans to stabilize nonprofit organizations (community associations) and small businesses experiencing a substantial economic injury as a result of the COVID-19 national emergency. The EIDL is used for working capital necessary until normal operations are resumed. EIDLs may not fund expenses like payment of dividends and bonuses, expansions of facilities, retiring federal debt (except IRS obligations), or relocation expenses. Visit CAI or contact your banker to learn if this may help your association through these difficult times.
Emergency Order 2020-04 was issued on March 27, 2020, by the Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) suspending the limitation that condominium (718.1265 F.S.) and HOA (720.316 F.S.) emergency powers be conditioned upon a “response to damage caused by an event”. Until the expiration of the Governor’s Executive Order 20-52, DBPR decrees that some of the emergency powers are available to these associations to help protect the health, safety and welfare of the association, owners, owner’s family members, tenants, guests, agents or invitees during this COVID-19 crisis. Review the order carefully for the particular approved powers. Also, Gov. DeSantis entered Executive Order 20-87 on March 27 suspending vacation rentals for 14 days.
On March 24, 2020, Governor DeSantis ordered anyone who has entered Florida and has come from an area with substantial community spread to (1) quarantine for 14 days, (2) inform anyone they have had “direct physical contact” with in the last 21 days that they came from such an area. The states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are referenced, but the order is not limited just to those areas. Community associations and rental property managers should be aware of this order, communicate with their residents and review their common area use policies and cleaning procedures (including elevators). On March 24, 2020, Governor DeSantis suspended vacation rentals in Florida (by Executive Order 20-87) until April 10. On April 10, that order was extended until April 30 (by Executive Order 20-103).
Please reference the CDC environmental cleaning and disinfection recommendations for community facilities with suspected/confirmed coronavirus disease. Please also reference The Governor’s Emergency Orders.
If your association is in need of legal representation, contact Suzanne Blankenship, a Board Certified Condominium and Planned Development Lawyer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 433-6581. Emmanuel Sheppard and Condon represents community associations throughout Northwest Florida.