Real Estate Matters: Florida residents worried about COVID-19 quarantine rules in 55-plus community
Q: We live in Florida in a 55-plus condominium development. Do residents who visit out-of-state folks need to quarantine themselves upon return? And, what about residents who have out-of-state guests staying in their home? It is the community swimming pool (where everyone tends to congregate) that makes me nervous.
A: The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly wreaking havoc with condo and community homeowner association rules and regulations. Prior to March 2020, you’d have never wondered whether your neighbors who had been away came back with an life-threatening infection.
We believe the answer to your question starts with what the COVID-19 infection rate is in your state, and what requirements are being imposed on the residents. If your state requires out-of-state visitors to quarantine, then they should quarantine indoors wherever they are, which may be in your community. However, if there is no mandate, and it’s just a suggestion, then the visitors are not legally compelled to quarantine.
Basically, state quarantine rules are either mandatory or suggested. If they are mandatory, you must follow them; if not, then it’s a suggestion for people to take the suggested action without any penalty under the law.
Many states now have quarantine laws that don’t distinguish between visitors and residents. If you live in a state that has an active quarantine law, and you have visited or live in a place (city or state) that has a high case number and was placed on a state’s quarantine list, when you get where you’re going, you are supposed to quarantine. Whether you must or you should is up to the laws in the state in which you live, and depends on whatever new laws are passed or orders that may be issued.
In addition to any state requirements, your condominium association or homeowner’s association can pass a COVID-19 quarantine rule for its owners, guests and invitees. These rules can limit who uses what amenities and where people can go when they come from locations that have a high coronavirus case number. It’s likely that associations will simply follow the lead of their state or local authorities, and, honestly, it’s difficult to enforce.
What does that mean for you? Well, if you’re nervous about who may be using some of the facilities, then it’s up to you to protect yourself. You may decide to stay indoors, avoid common areas, avoid the gym, pool or workout room, and limit your visits to shopping areas. You may decide to use a mask, even if your fellow residents decide not to (perhaps even in violation of state law).
You can take it a step further. If, for example, you live in an elevator building and the state rules prohibit more than a certain number of unrelated people in an elevator at any one time, and your fellow residents are flouting that rule, you may wish to bring it to the association leadership or file a complaint with the property management company.
Here’s the bottom line: COVID-19 has been politicized in this country, and some people will simply not follow masking rules as a political statement. Others will believe themselves to be immune or believe they can’t catch this disease for one reason or another.
Until there is a vaccine or drug to treat COVID-19, the one place you should be able to control is your own home. What goes on outside your home may seem chaotic, with each neighbor having their own idea and view of what to do. But inside your home, you can be as safe as possible, which is not to say it will be 100% safe.
During the pandemic, we’ve watched the real estate industry (including homeowners, buyers and sellers) adapt quickly.
That’s why buyers are often making offers without having crossed the threshold of the property. They’re asking their agents to do final walk-throughs and are carefully choosing movers who agree to follow special pandemic-aware protocols. Settlement agents are adapting by using remote signing and remote online notarization tools and limiting who can actually be at the closing or settlement of a home. Government offices are limiting who can actually access public offices and are offering more services online.
In your community, it’ll be up to you and your co-residents to decide how much you want to enforce quarantine protections. If you feel unsafe, you can be sure there are others who feel the same way. If there are enough of you, you can talk with your homeowners association, management company or even your local officials about enacting more stringent protections and reaching out to those in your community who continue to flout the rules.
(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.)© 2020 ILYCE R. GLINK AND SAMUEL J. TAMKIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNECONTENT AGENCY, LLC.