Here's how associations are already being affected by COVID-19, and what you can do to overcome some of these challenges
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe, businesses are closing, millions of people are being ordered to stay home, and general uncertainty is the new normal. HOAs and condo associations are also being impacted by the threat of the virus, and community managers and association boards are tasked with navigating this unprecedented outbreak and supporting homeowners in their communities.
Boards and managers must now learn how to move communications virtually and manage the community remotely.
Impacts of COVID-19 on HOAs and condo associations
The changes that COVID-19 has already caused across the globe are also impacting HOAs. Social distancing suggestions indicate that individuals should not be socializing in groups and should only be around the people they live with.
This may be challenging for HOAs, since many adults are working from home and children are learning online. Small communities will be full of residents who are staying home, and it may be hard to avoid interactions, especially in condo association buildings.
Association boards should thus ensure that buildings and shared spaces are well maintained, cleaned, and disinfected, and that in communal areas there are hand sanitizer dispensers available.
Gyms, courts, business centers, or other facilities within HOAs and condo associations are being closed to discourage social gatherings and the spread of the virus.
Board members should also restrict guests from entering the property during this uncertain time to help minimize exposure. And contractors and maintenance vendors should also not be entering the community during this time.
Because businesses are being upended, this also means that individual staff members who run the association need to assess the risks of going to work every day, or whether their role in the HOA can be performed remotely.
How to support a community virtually
The association board needs to update communication policies so that interactions with homeowners and business, in general, can be conducted virtually. Keep these solutions in mind when transitioning to a remote environment.
Video meeting tools
Since in-person interactions are extremely limited during this time, alternative solutions are needed to keep board meetings and other community gatherings moving. There are many tools available to keep everyone connected such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype. If the board is already using Microsoft Office 365, you likely already have access to Microsoft Teams.
Each platform has different features, so review them to determine which one will work best for the board and community.
Digital communication solutions
Make sure there's a solution in place for sending out digital correspondence to the community, informing residents of precautions they can take and local resources available to them, like the Florida Department of Health 24/7 hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
Email platforms like MailChimp, MailerLite, or Constant Contact could be valuable investments if such a tool isn't already being used. Many email platforms have a free tier that includes basic templates and allows up to a specified number of contacts.
Cloud-based recording platforms
You can also record training and information sessions that members can access online at their convenience. Answer common questions and disclose what the board is doing to support the health of the HOA. This requires the use of cloud-based communication and management platforms that can be accessed on homeowners' devices at any time.
As everything is moving virtual, association boards should:
- Convey the seriousness of the situation without inducing panic within the community.
- Stay updated on what's being recommended by government officials and health care professionals.
- Focus on maintaining a positive community culture by encouraging engagement and collaboration.
Other ways to respond to challenges
This is a great time to ensure that association members' emergency contact information is up to date and easily accessible. Take this time to also revisit and update the community's emergency plan in the areas of evacuation procedures, insurance considerations, and risk management. This may require consulting with the association's lawyer for assistance.
This can be a difficult situation to manage, but with a little practice and time, it is possible to create a new normal conducting board meeting and staying in contact with the community.
The professionals at PeytonBolin are here during these uncertain times. We can help advise you on how to prepare your association for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and what to do if an emergency situation arises. Should you have any legal questions about your responsibilities as you manage your community, contact PeytonBolin to get the answers and support you need.