Homeowners Associations and Their Managers Activities During COVID-19 Pandemic
As the world responds to the COVID-19 virus, businesses are left to determine the meaning of terms such as “critical businesses”, “essential services” and “minimum basic operations.” It can be confusing to determine which services associated with association management of single-family homes, townhomes, and condominium properties are allowed. There are many levels of public orders applicable to the COVID-19 crisis. Mandatory orders have been instituted by the State of Colorado, individual counties and towns, or cities.
The guidance provided below addresses as of April 10, 2020, the orders from the State of Colorado and the counties of Eagle, Garfield, and Pitkin. It does not address any additional orders from other towns or cities. The firm also maintains offices in Denver and Crested Butte and contact information for those attorneys is provided at the end of this article. Please be aware that in event that if county order is more restrictive than the State of Colorado orders, the more restrictive order applies.
Executive Summary. While Homeowner Associations and their Management Companies are listed as critical, that does not mean business as usual. Unnecessary activities that are not integral to the association are to be postponed. For instance, there is a difference in repairing a roof leak which threatens damage versus planting a flower bed for aesthetic reasons. Furthermore, working from home is highly encouraged. Also, all common areas which can be closed should be (i.e. building gyms, pools, hot tubs, and community rooms). Most importantly, if you continue to go into an office to work or require other activities on-site such as security or cleaning, you are required to comply with CDC guidance and directives for maintaining a safe work environment and social distancing more fully described below.
Currently, the CDC guidance for office work or on-site activities is as follows:
- Sick employees should stay at home.
- Talk with your employees regarding their concerns.
- Develop flexible policies for scheduling telework and create leave policies.
- Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees. Discuss the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive emergency sick leave.
- Promote proper etiquette for coughing, sneezing, and handwashing. Provide tissues, no-touch trash case, soap, water, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Implement practices to minimize face to face contact between employees and follow your state or local health department on social distancing.
- Clean. Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, handrails, and doorknobs. Discourage the sharing of tools and equipment if feasible.
- Consider the need for travel and explore alternatives.
- Provide education and training materials in an easy to understand form and in the appropriate language and literacy level for all employees.
- If an employee becomes sick, they should be sent home immediately. All surfaces and areas the sick employee visited should be cleaned and disinfected immediately.
1. State of Colorado Orders
Colorado has issued two orders which are applied to community association management. PHO 20-22 and PHO 20-24. Failure to comply with the Colorado orders subjects violators to a fine of $1,000 and up to 12 months in jail.
The Colorado Orders use the terminology of “critical businesses” and “critical services”. Critical businesses and critical services allow the following:
- Community Association Managers (but only if the duties cannot be performed remotely)
- Homeowners Associations
- Building cleaners or janitors
- General maintenance
- Snow removal
2. Eagle County Orders
Eagle County has issued an order stating that the “critical business” definition in the State of Colorado PHO 20-24 will be considered an “essential service and business” in Eagle County. Please refer to the list of critical businesses and critical services in 1. above. Failure to comply with the Eagle County Order subjects violators to a fine of up to $5,000 and 18 months in jail
All employers providing essential services or businesses must prepare a “Social Distancing Protocol by April 9 for each location frequented by employees or the public. The form is found at https://www.eaglecounty.us/PublicHealth/Documents/Appendix-A-Social-Distancing-Protocol_FINAL/. The completed form must be posted at or near the entrance and be easily viewable by the public and employees. A copy must also be provided to each employee performing work at the businesses.
The protocols for Essential Services and Business to operate are the following:
- Adults 60 and older, people with underlying medical conditions that are at increased risk for COVID-19 are encouraged not to go to work but to telecommute where possible.
- Employees must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms each day and sent home if symptomatic.
- Social distancing of at least 6 feet from each other must be maintained except for monetary circumstances to access payment, walk past or perform otherwise necessary tasks. This may require limiting the number of people that can enter or participate in an essential service or business at any one time.
- Employees within 6 feet of each other must cover their nose and mouth with non-medical, cloth face covering.
- For vehicles used:
- Employees must be screened for COVID-19 daily.
- Employees must use hand sanitizer upon entering the vehicle and must cover their nose and mouth with a non-medical, cloth face covering when more than 1 person is in the vehicle
- The number of passengers must be limited to 50% of the vehicle’s occupancy to increase the distance between passengers to the largest extent possible.
- Windows must be open and/or ventilations increased.
- High touch services surfaces must be disinfected daily.
- Hand sanitizer, soap, and water must be available at the entrance.
- High touch surfaces should be regularly disinfected and environmental guidelines from the CDC must be followed.
3. Garfield County
Garfield County has not issued any orders regarding essential or critical businesses or services as of April 10, 2020. Garfield County guidance is to follow the State of Colorado Orders and to check with your local town or city for any additional requirements.
4. Pitkin County Order
Pitkin County has required all businesses to cease activities unless they have been exempt as an “essential business.” The list of essential businesses does not specifically include community association managers or homeowners associations. However, some of the approved essential businesses specifically address the functions provided by community association managers. Failure to comply with the Pitkin County Order subjects the violator to a fine of up to $5,000 and 18 months in jail.
The following essential services which relate to homeowners associations are allowed:
- Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, internet or broadband providers, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
- Laundromats and laundry service providers
- Professional services, such as accounting, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities
Residential and commercial construction is specifically left out of the essential business definition. Those activities may only continue minimum basic operations (defined below) for the purposes of safely securing and closing their construction sites.
Landscaping and lawn work are only allowed if the work is a matter of “healthy and safety” with a crew not to exceed 5 individuals and while adhering to social distancing practices. Usual lawn maintenance, lawn work, flower bed work and the like cannot be done. In connection with private cleaning and property management, the threshold again is only services that are necessary to maintain the “safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences” are allowed.
There is an allowance for nonessential businesses to maintain “minimum basic operations” provided those businesses require their employees to comply with social distancing. These businesses are allowed to only do those minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll, and employee benefits or for related functions. There is an emphasis that if the foregoing activities can be performed from home, then those employees should be working remotely.
The protocols for essential business to operate are the following:
- Physical distancing of at least 6 feet.
- Employees over the age of 60 and older are encouraged not to go into a workplace.
- For employees that are going into their workplace, they must be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 regularly. Employees with symptoms must be sent home.
- Any gathering of more than 5 people is prohibited.
- Employees should clean their hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- Clean all workplace surfaces and related equipment frequently. First clean with detergent and water then disinfect them with a product that will kill COVID-19.
For additional information or guidance on COVID-19 and community association managers, we have several experienced attorneys ready to assist you.
 Community laundry rooms may remain open.
 Centers for Disease Control.
 Colorado Public Heath Order 20-22
 Colorado Third Update to Public Health Order 20-24
 Symptoms include headache, sore throat, fever, dry cough, inability to taste and smell, shortness of breath, earaches, body aches, diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
 Symptoms to watch for include fever, fatigue, body aches, dry cough, and shortness of breath.