Your HOA Board and Coronavirus: 5 Questions to Discuss
What should our board do when an unexpected crisis or emergency hits?
How can we tackle concerns from residents when we’re not sure what to do?
When a disaster or unexpected crisis occurs, what is your board’s responsibility? As associations face the emerging outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), it is important to consider the decisions you’re making as a board to ensure that you are keeping your community’s best interest in mind. The safety and security of residents (including you and your fellow board members) should always be the highest priority.
So where do you start?
Here are a few questions to discuss with your board, legal counsel, association manager and management company:
1. Do we have standard operating procedures (SOP) or emergency protocols in place?
When a crisis or emergency strikes (like COVID-19), it’s critical to have an SOP in place that outlines important contact details, resident communication plans and actions your association should take when a crisis occurs (e.g., shutting down amenities, posting notices, etc.). If you don’t already have an SOP, your management company should provide you with guidance and resources to help develop protocols for your community.
2. Do we need to close off certain common areas or amenities to residents?
Depending on the size and scale of your amenities, you should temporarily shut down access and/or secure additional cleaning services to ensure that common areas remain sanitized. Your manager and management company should help organize logistics and communication of these decisions. For instance, some large-scale communities immediately closed large gather common areas (e.g., restaurants, spas and recreation facilities) for several weeks as a result of COVID-19 and will revisit the decision at a later date. Work with your management company to ensure that you are also able to adequately communicate changes about amenity access or common areas.
One of the best ways to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed. That means being vigilant about sanitation in your community. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), it is important to “clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, faucets and sinks.” work with your fellow board members and management team to discuss raising cleaning standards with your current vendors or securing additional services. You should also install additional hand sanitizer dispensers in common areas.
3. Should we request the services of additional cleaning service vendors (to ensure common areas and meeting rooms remain sanitized)?
4. What are the restrictions on mandatory board meetings? Can we meet remotely?
Speak with your legal counsel for advice regarding any meeting scheduling adjustments (e.g. Board, Committee, Executive Session and/or Annual Election Meetings) and any potential concerns concerning compliance with state laws. Your management company should be able to help set up virtual meeting or teleconference technology for you and your board. Free teleconference services include FreeConferenceCall.com and Zoom.us.
5. How should we be communicating with residents?
For any emergency that impacts your entire community, frequent and clear communication is essential. Make sure that residents are kept in the loop on any changes, particularly related to event cancellations, amenity closures and any policies that may impact their day-to-day life. Your management company should help you create and disseminate board-approved communications to your entire community.
FirstService Residential is closely monitoring information from the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other credible sources of information. Please visit our website for more information and helpful links. We are always looking to “Do What’s Right” for communities, boards and associates. If you need assistance or additional guidance, please contact us today and we will be happy to help or direct you to the right resource.