Condo Media - August 2020 - 10

Asked & Answered

Enforcing Pandemic Rules
Keeping Residents Safe, Even When There's Resistance
In response to the pandemic, our board has
adopted regulations requiring residents
to wear face coverings and practice social
distancing in common areas. Most owners
are cooperative, but some are resistant and a
few are belligerent. How can we enforce our
rules? We're not sure we can fine violators,
but we're concerned that residents who
become ill might sue us if we don't.
There are three overlapping issues here: The board's
enforcement authority, its enforcement capacity, and
its potential liability for failing to enforce its rules.
Boards have broad authority to adopt rules governing
behavior in the common areas, Scott Eriksen, a partner
in Perkins & Anctil, notes. "And we don't view rules
related to COVID any differently than any other
rules boards might enact," he says. Like other rules,
he explains, your pandemic rules must be "reasonable
and appropriate." Rules that track the guidance issued
by federal, state, and local authorities, he suggests,
will probably be deemed to meet that standard.
The board's ability to fine for rules violations will
usually be defined and may be limited by its governing
documents. If the board has the general authority to
impose fines, it can fine residents who violate the pandemic rules, Eriksen says, but its enforcement practices,
he emphasizes, must be "consistent and fair."
The question for boards, he suggests, is not whether
they have enforcement authority (most probably do),
but how vigorously they want to wield it. Masks,
he notes, have become a particular "hot button," with
some people insisting that masks should be required
for everyone, and others asserting their absolute right
not to wear them. Boards are likely to be caught in the
middle of that debate.
ADDRESSING NON-COMPLIANCE
Eriksen's advice is to approach mask infractions on a
case-by-case basis, considering, among other factors,
whether one resident's failure to wear a mask puts
others at risk. A reminder might be sufficient in the
first case, while a fine might be justified in the second.
A rigid policy that penalizes anyone spotted without
a mask under any circumstances anywhere in the

10

CONDOMEDIA August 2020

community,
munity, however, "will probably produce significant discord," Eriksen cautions. "People are already on
edge because of the pandemic; feeling that every move
they make is being scrutinized will make them even
more uncomfortable. It's not going to produce harmony
in the community."
Enforcement of post-lockdown pandemic rules in
pools and other amenities will be even more challenging, he predicts. The more closely the rules association's
adopt follow federal, state, and local guidance, he suggests, the stronger the board's position will be. As with
rules requiring masks, boards that have fining authority
can use it to enforce rules governing the use of amenities. They can also seek a court order compelling compliance, he notes, although the costs and headaches of
litigation usually discourage that strategy. An alternative
when dealing with a health and safety issue (which pandemic rules, arguably, would be), is to ask a local board
of health to intervene. By getting a third party involved,
Eriksen says, the board may be able to enforce the
association's rules without using association resources.
How concerned should you be about the potential
liability for failing to enforce pandemic rules? Not
overly, in Eriksen's view. "While the pandemic may have
created a heightened duty" for associations to protect
residents, he agrees, "it is still a duty only to act reasonably - to do the best they can" to control risks. "This is
uncharted legal water, to some extent," he notes. "But as
long as the policies and rules boards have implemented
are consistent with what state and local governments
agree are best practices, [and as long as enforcement
actions are reasonable], I think boards will have satisfied
their base line duty to protect residents."



Condo Media - August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - August 2020

Contents
Condo Media - August 2020 - Intro
Condo Media - August 2020 - Cover1
Condo Media - August 2020 - Cover2
Condo Media - August 2020 - Contents
Condo Media - August 2020 - 2
Condo Media - August 2020 - 3
Condo Media - August 2020 - 4
Condo Media - August 2020 - 5
Condo Media - August 2020 - 6
Condo Media - August 2020 - 7
Condo Media - August 2020 - 8
Condo Media - August 2020 - 9
Condo Media - August 2020 - 10
Condo Media - August 2020 - 11
Condo Media - August 2020 - 12
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Condo Media - August 2020 - 14
Condo Media - August 2020 - 15
Condo Media - August 2020 - 16
Condo Media - August 2020 - 17
Condo Media - August 2020 - 18
Condo Media - August 2020 - 19
Condo Media - August 2020 - 20
Condo Media - August 2020 - 21
Condo Media - August 2020 - 22
Condo Media - August 2020 - 23
Condo Media - August 2020 - 24
Condo Media - August 2020 - 25
Condo Media - August 2020 - 26
Condo Media - August 2020 - 27
Condo Media - August 2020 - 28
Condo Media - August 2020 - 29
Condo Media - August 2020 - 30
Condo Media - August 2020 - 31
Condo Media - August 2020 - 32
Condo Media - August 2020 - 33
Condo Media - August 2020 - 34
Condo Media - August 2020 - 35
Condo Media - August 2020 - 36
Condo Media - August 2020 - 37
Condo Media - August 2020 - 38
Condo Media - August 2020 - 39
Condo Media - August 2020 - 40
Condo Media - August 2020 - 41
Condo Media - August 2020 - 42
Condo Media - August 2020 - 43
Condo Media - August 2020 - 44
Condo Media - August 2020 - 45
Condo Media - August 2020 - 46
Condo Media - August 2020 - 47
Condo Media - August 2020 - 48
Condo Media - August 2020 - Cover4
Condo Media - August 2020 - Cover3
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