If you are a community manager, resident, or a board member of a community association, we know reopening strata facilities is at the top of mind. However, the safety of residents is at stake, so there are many things to consider before going ahead and making the call. Furthermore, each facility is unique and will have different considerations. Here we will help you make the decision to reopen or to keep facilities closed until further criteria are met.
Last year, when the situation was more severe and we knew little about the COVID virus, it made sense to remain closed until executive orders dictated otherwise. But now the situation is evolving. With management and residents having more knowledge about COVID, and vaccines being developed and administered, many are eager to resume life as usual. Reopening facilities when safe and properly prepared is a step toward embracing the new normal. But just because you can reopen doesn’t mean you have to!
Preparing to Reopen
Before you reopen any facility, know what residents expect and what they are comfortable with. You can do this by issuing a short survey. Do they want the facilities to reopen, or would they be more comfortable extending the closure? If they are still uncomfortable using the facilities, reopening won’t be worthwhile for the association. However, keep in mind, one day you will reopen, and you will require the steps that follow to move forward.
If residents are receptive to reopening, you will need to ensure the association’s budget is COVID ready and that you have a plan in place. Don’t forget to double check that your association insurance policy is in place and that coverage extends to the facilities you are reopening.
Your revised budget needs to incorporate new precautions like increased janitorial costs and cleaning supplies like soaps and sanitizers. You’ll also need to invest in tracking software for booking time at the pool, tennis courts, or gyms. Think about the sanitary and regulatory needs of each facility and reflect these in your reopening budget. It might also be the case that facilities are open for limited hours or maybe the pool doesn’t open for its normal opening day in order to accommodate increased costs.
Following health guidelines not only requires more financial resources but it also requires more time and careful planning. A reopening plan is necessary to account for increased staffing requirements and to safely organize employees. Ensure your team is capable of adequately enforcing health and safety protocols in the facility. You will also need to factor in availability of vendors to provide the materials necessary to keep facilities open to avoid unexpected closures. Don’t forget to be flexible and have a contingency plan in place should the situation get worse again. If your association has not started a reopening plan, the time to start one is now.
If you are considering reopening your facilities or have already decided that this is what your association wishes to do, the next step is making it happen. To safely reopen facilities in your community, you need to require compliance, waivers, and common sense from residents using the facilities. A COVID liability waiver is a legal document that users sign to relinquish their right to sue the condo association if they contract COVID while using one of the facilities. These things can all help prevent you from being sued and also help prevent claims against your association insurance policy.
At JGS, we have not seen any cases where an association insurance carrier has supported a COVID-related claim. This is why it’s so important to prevent liability in your facilities after reopening.
Reopening for the Community
Owners choose to live in and be part of Community Associations because they enjoy the facilities and the amenities. They are also paying for them to be used and maintained. These facilities are part of the community, and reopening them is essential to rebuilding the thriving community atmosphere.
Risk tolerance has increased as vaccines are being administered. Most residents are anxious for the community to return to normal, and reopening facilities plays an integral role in this. Be transparent with the members of your community and work together to manage their expectations as you move through the reopening process.
Review Your Association Insurance Policy
Before you make the final decision to reopen your facilities, talk to your JGS advisor about what is included under your condo insurance policy. You should make sure you are adequately covered and that no exemptions for communicable diseases exist under your policy should you have to make a COVID-related claim. These exemptions are becoming more common, particularly in newer policies, and protection for your condo association is important to us. Contact us today so we can ensure you have the coverage you need.
For more Community Association resources included previously recorded webinars, visit our Community Association Resource Page.