Closing Common Areas in HOAs due to COVID-19

By Wil Washington
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Can we close our gym, business center or other shared facility because of COVID-19?

The answer is yes. As the number of COVID-19 cases increases nationwide, many boards are faced with a difficult business decision — should we (and can we) close common facilities?  Indeed, most governing documents provide clear authority to the board to “operate, manage, and supervise” common facilities, which could include suspending their operation.

If the board believes that closing a gym, business center or community room is in the interest of the health and safety of residents to minimize the spread of disease, this is arguably a defensible, sensible business decision under the governing documents. If a board makes this kind of decision, we recommend making the rationale clear in a written communication to the members.

Common Areas

Associations do have the option to close common facilities if the board believes it is in the interests of the residents. For areas that remain open, remember that viruses may be able to transmit via contaminated surfaces. While an association has limited ability to reasonably sterilize all common areas, there are some steps that can be taken to improve the sanitary situation on certain common area facilities and equipment. For example:

  • Enhanced Cleaning. Association cleaning contractors or employees can undertake more extensive cleaning or wiping down of common area surfaces and equipment, elevator surfaces and other areas.
  • Close Facilities. The association may even consider temporarily closing certain areas/facilities where germs/viruses are easily spread, such as gyms.
  • Postpone Events. If there are events scheduled in the midst of the outbreak, where large numbers of people may be collected, the Board could consider postponing.
  • Sanitizer. Install hand sanitizer dispensers/wipes on the common area.
  • Employees Wash Hands. The association should encourage its employees to wash hands frequently and clean/disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces on common areas.

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Wil Washington

Wil Washington is a partner at Chadwick, Washington, Moriarty, Elmore & Bunn, PC in Fairfax, Va., and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL).