Real Estate Matters: Association seeks guidelines on pool usage amid COVID-19 pandemic as summer approaches
Q: Our 100-unit condominium has a small, private locked outdoor pool that usually opens from Memorial Day to Labor Day. With COVID-19, what do we do this year? Should we open the pool and use it at our own risk? Should it be open to residents only? Should guests be allowed to use the pool?
We need some guidance, as many residents have already requested that the pool open up as usual.
A: Here comes summer. With warmer weather, everyone is going to be looking to go outdoors and enjoy the heat. But, with COVID-19 lurking about, that could raise a host of issues that have to be resolved before anyone does a cannonball.
The first issue you face are any limitations put in place under your state's regulations regarding shelter-in-place rules. We won't get into the intricacies of shelter-in-place guidelines for any particular state but, in general, these guidelines require people to "socially distance" themselves.
These state rules or guidelines require certain types of businesses to close and require locations to shut down if it's likely people can and will congregate. In order to comply with shelter-in-place rules, many condominium associations have shut down their party rooms, pools, common areas, gyms, card rooms or any other places where homeowners may get together in groups.
In addition, some buildings require residents (or office workers) to go up alone in elevators, since there is no way to appropriately social distance in such a small space. Country clubs have closed and allow very limited use by members. At one club in a New York suburb, members may play by themselves, stretched out 15 minutes apart. They cannot use golf carts and must carry whatever they think they'll need.
So, where does all this leave you and your association? Well, if the shelter-in-place rules are lifted, your association will need to make the decision as to when and how to open your association's pool and other facilities. Your association may decide to open the pool (or workout room, etc.) but keep some of the social distancing guidelines in place even after the shelter-in-place rules are lifted. Your state may provide guidance, and if it does, your homeowners association board should pay attention to the details.
On the other hand, if your state's shelter-in-place rules prohibit you from opening the pool, you will need to abide by those rules.
Who can use the pool is another issue you'll have to deal with once you understand whether the pool itself can open up. We could see an overly cautious homeowners association limiting the use of the pool to a certain number of residents at a time (perhaps by signing up?), limiting the pool use to residents only and enacting other restrictions that the association deems important to protecting its homeowners.
And, just as we can see an overly cautious association take those steps, we can see other associations taking the position that the pool is outdoors, so no changes to the rules are necessary.
Many associations, stores, businesses, sporting facilities, and houses of worship will have to decide how and when they want to open up, and under what conditions. There are no right or wrong decisions, per se, but it's important to stay as safe as you can. And, we can all agree that this summer will be anything but ordinary.
(Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (4th Edition). She is also the CEO of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact Ilyce and Sam through her website, ThinkGlink.com.)(c) 2020 ILYCE R. GLINK AND SAMUEL J. TAMKIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNECONTENT AGENCY, LLC.