We know associations and boards are looking for guidance on re-opening their common facilities. What can be permitted? On what terms? Last week, the Governor announced additional guidance from its Advisory Board and Outdoor Recreation Task Force that will help shape an association’s re-opening of some of its outdoor amenities. We anticipate future advisories on some of the facilities that remain closed for the time being.
Last week, the Governor announced additional guidance from its Advisory Board and Outdoor Recreation Task Force that will help shape an association’s re-opening of some of its outdoor amenities. We anticipate future advisories on some of the facilities that remain closed for the time being.
It is important to follow federal, state and local laws and guidance. Please note some municipalities have additional guidance and restrictions beyond those addressed here. It is also important to consider your particular property, residents and association needs and limitations. Please remember that best practices and guidance are continually being updated. If you have any questions about re-opening certain common amenities, plans to re-open, and rules for re-opening, contact us. Below we provide some Q&As for your reference and information.
Can we open the pool? Can we perform maintenance on the pool?
The present guidance is that community pools are to remain closed. Under the plans announced last week, it appears pools may re-open in mid-June and will be subject to specific protocols and guidelines developed by the CDC and to be developed by the DPH. As with much guidance, when pools may be opened is subject to change. Once the state and local governments allow pools to open, boards will need to grapple with whether they will be able to meet those requirements to safely open and whether they should open at all in light of the then present risks and potential for liability (for which there may be no insurance). If the answer to open is yes, then reasonable and enforceable rules about the use of a pool and restrictions imposed for its proper use will be very important. Also, don’t forget to check what permits or other requirements your town may require to open the pool.
Even though pools are not open, associations should determine whether any pool maintenance is appropriate in order to keep the pool in good service. At this point, however, pool covers should remain on and no additional steps should be taken to re-open the pool until further guidance is provided and all federal, state and municipal guidelines have been finalized and reviewed for the ability for compliance.
Can residents get out in our Community Gardens?
Residents can take advantage of community gardens. Boards should develop and publish simple rules, including, for example: use should be for residents-only and residents should stay in their own plots when working and use their own equipment. As with any amenity, social distancing, face covering and rules limiting gatherings apply. If the community gardens become over-crowded, boards may need to develop a schedule for their use.
Can residents use the grills/picnic areas?
Grill and picnic areas can be utilized if residents exercise appropriate social distancing and there are appropriate sanitizing between each use. Associations must consider how any grills and picnic areas are spaced and whether there is an opportunity to provide or mandate the use of certain cleaning products on the grill handles, tables and other equipment touched. Any picnics should still meet all appropriate rules on social distancing, face coverings and gathering limits. Boards may also additionally wish to impose limits on use by only intra-family members and prohibit guests.
Can we open up athletic courts?
Yes, for sport courts like tennis, pickle ball and handball. However, it is important to have specific rules for their use in place. Based upon the recommendations from the Commonwealth, those rules should include: no shared equipment, players must appropriately wash hands and equipment before use and clean the area of play when done, residents must wait for players to vacate before entering the court, and residents cannot congregate to watch. Additionally, boards should consider creating a process for scheduling court times. Additional rules to consider for safe use of courts include prohibiting guests, requiring intra-unit play only, and prohibiting doubles play. If there are water fountains, such fountains should be blocked off or covered to prevent use. Each player should have their own water bottle.
Can we re-open common basketball courts and playgrounds?
The Advisory Board guidance indicates that contact sports and organized sports remain closed. This includes pick-up games. Boards may consider whether solo play can be scheduled and will not lead to inappropriate pick-up games. In this same vein, with appropriate restrictions, a game of catch on a common lawn by intra-family members may be permissible with one’s own equipment.
Playgrounds remain closed under the Commonwealth’s guidance. Governor Baker has indicated that he anticipates opening playgrounds in the next phase of re-opening with cleanliness and supervision protocols.
Can dog parks open?
Yes, dog parks can open with appropriate rules. As always, appropriate social distancing, face coverings and gathering limitations will apply. In addition, dogs and owners should not share toys or equipment. Surfaces should be appropriately cleaned and owners should wash their hands and equipment prior to entry. If possible, the dog parks should be equipped with hands-free trash cans.
What about indoor amenities like gyms?
Public gyms remain closed under the advisory. There remains significant questions about how individuals can remain appropriately distanced in gyms and how to clean after each and every use of equipment. Therefore, association gyms should remain closed as well.
What other rules might be appropriate for use of newly re-opened amenities?
We encourage boards to develop sensible rules, no matter the type of amenity at issue. Appropriate signage about the terms and use of the facility should be posted. Residents who are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus or who have had known contact with someone with COVID-19 should not use any of the amenities now open. Guest and visitor use should also be limited or prohibited during the public health emergency.
Can we have residents sign a waiver?
Residents can sign waivers to use the facilities; waivers help to remind residents of the risks associated with their use, including the risk associated with contracting COVID-19. Ultimately, however, waivers may have limited utility in limiting liability.
If you have questions about a particular amenity or rule, contact us.
Also, in case you missed MTM’s May 27, 2020 seminar on “Re-Opening your Association in Massachusetts: Planning & Insights” you can click on this link to view the seminar at your convenience. Also click on this link to see the power point presentation of the seminar.