Reopening amenities and common areas during the COVID-19 pandemic is a complicated decision for community association leaders. Liability and additional expenses are a huge concern, and balancing what residents want and what the law allows can present challenges.

Boards and managers need to ask not only can various amenities be opened, but should they?

Complying with local and state reopening guidelines as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is necessary. So is consulting with the association’s attorney and reviewing the general liability policy since most insurance providers exclude coverage for bodily injuries stemming from viruses, bacteria, and other transmissible diseases, according to Eric Henning, AMS, PCAM, CEO of Community Management Associates in Atlanta.

Association boards and management can establish an operating plan for reopening amenities that covers actions the community is taking to clean and maintain facilities such as pools, clubhouses, playgrounds, and fitness centers. This also can include the expectation that residents wear face coverings, observe social distancing measures, and sign a liability waiver releasing the association from fault if they contract COVID-19 while using an amenity.

Michael Johnson, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CEO of FCS Community Management, AAMC, in Draper, Utah, developed detailed guidelines to help guide the 250 communities his company manages as they reopen based on the state’s color-coded reopening plan. Johnson’s guidelines were adapted for a broader audience in CAI’s Status Check: A Reopening Guide for Community Associations.

These guidelines can and should be modified to each individual community. Status Check serves as a complement to the previously released Healthy Communities guide, a summary of information developed by the CDC that is relevant to community associations. These two documents and CAI’s work to continually track local, state, and federal government actions give community associations a more complete picture when addressing questions and concerns regarding association operations.

Community association board members and managers should consult with legal, insurance, health, and management experts before taking any actions related to association operations.

>>Find more research, resources, FAQs, and best practices related to COVID-19. 

  • Kiara Candelaria

    Kiara is the former associate editor for CAI’s print and digital publications. Before joining CAI, she worked for a trade media magazine focusing on the oil refining sector. Kiara also worked as an internal communications intern at the Library of Congress in 2015 and was a student journalist while attending college in Puerto Rico, where she was born and raised. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in information and journalism from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, in 2014 and earned a master’s degree in communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., in 2020.

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