Emergency orders due to COVID-19 result in many questions for HOAs and Condominium Associations. Here is a general guideline for frequently asked questions.
Question: How does my association conduct an annual meeting during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Answer: It’s difficult but not impossible to meet your Annual Meeting requirement.
An annual meeting is meeting of the association of owners, not a regular board meeting, and operates under a different set of restrictions. This includes the date or time of year for the meeting and other requirements included in the association’s documents.
In person group meetings are virtually impossible at this time. The Federal government has issued guidelines which require social distancing of at least six feet between individuals. Also, Hawaii’s Governor issued a stay at home/work from home order for essential and non-essential businesses as of March 25, with additional restrictions regarding Neighbor Island travel on April 1. In Hawaii, “all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited,” except for the limited purpose expressly permitted in the Order. Maui County has its own set of restrictions under its Emergency Public Health Rules.
However, Annual Meetings are required, and there are some ways to address the requirement. It should be emphasized upfront, each association different, and associations should review association bylaws and other governing documents regarding meetings and voting methods. If your association is under management with Destination Maui, Inc. (or would like to be), please contact us with questions regarding rescheduling or conducting the meeting.
That said, here is a brief recap of advice regarding Annual Meetings during COVID-19 from Steve Glanstein,PRP from the Hawaii webcast Condo Insider, which was shared by the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Real Estate Division.
Question: What about other meetings?
Answer: At this time, we are recommending associations postpone board and committee meetings. An association may want to consider acquiring and testing technology to hold phone or video conference meetings the future. Again, each association is different, and should review bylaws and other governing documents regarding meetings and voting methods, or contact us if a client.
Question: How can owners or directors participate in a teleconference without an internet connection?
Answer: Most video conferencing options have a call-in feature where a participant can call in, hear the meeting and talk. The moderator of the meeting generally has muting control to regulate who is talking, and also allows directors to go into executive session by muting those that are not entitled to be included. You can read this review of popular video conference options, many of which are free to small groups, and have paid subscriptions for larger groups.
Question: Should the association close a portion of the association property?
Answer: If any portion of the common areas is used in a manner which violates social distancing or gathering guidelines, then you should close it. This includes pools, spas, gyms and other indoor or outdoor areas. The association may also choose to close party rooms or gathering spaces.
Keep in mind that you cannot prevent access to the units or homes, so common hallways, foyers, elevators, stairways, and the like must remain open.
If your association has an onsite management office and your manager is going to continue to report to work in person, we recommend the office is closed to the public. Include a phone number and email on the office door so owners and guests can stay in contact.
Note that essential duties for accommodations, such as cleaning and maintenance are allowed as are certain types of vendors, such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of the property and units.
However, some services may be non-essential such as yoga classes or concierge services, and these services should be suspended.
Question: Can guests visit?
Answer: Consistent with the State and County regulations, all individuals are ordered to stay in their place of residence, except to go outside for exercise, get groceries or for work deemed essential. No gatherings are allowed, except with your household members. Therefore, guests should not be allowed.
Question: What happens if someone in the community tests positive for COVID-19?
Answer: This is a difficult question that raises several legal issues. The association should not be actively inquiring about the medical status of residents or guests. Whatever action association takes or does not take about alerting about the presence of COVID-19 should be done in consultation with the association’s attorney.
Most importantly, the address and identity of the individual needs to be kept confidential. There should be no discussion, inuendo or situations where an owner or resident is treated differently because of their status. The association should also ensure it is taking all appropriate precautions to comply with social distancing, and if possible, increase cleaning of common areas.
Question: How does the Federal Stimulus affect associations?
Answer: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) has been signed into law. The 800 pages of text allocate over $2 trillion in federal money to bolster the economy during this difficult time.
Under CARES, associations may be eligible to apply for a loan to cover certain operating costs. If the funds from the loan are used in compliance with the Act, then the loan, including interest, may be forgiven if the association qualifies under certain aspects of the law.
Question: Can the association continue to collect assessments?
Answer: Yes. Without assessment income associations are unable to provide basic services to the owners and residents. We recommend that associations continue to diligently pursue collection of assessments. A strong collection strategy that begins when an account first becomes delinquent will reduce the amount of bad debt in the long term. It will also help owners who become delinquent to structure their income and debt so that they can make payments or other arrangements to resolve it quickly. Any hardship needs should be handled on a case-by-case basis, not as a general policy.