Best Practices for Re-Opening Homeowners’ Association Common Areas

Nov 10, 2020 | Covid-19, Homeowner's Associations

Many homeowners’ associations have been faced with difficult decisions to close swimming pools and other common area amenities due to COVID-19. Restrictions are constantly changing in light of the developing nature of the pandemic. These recommendations are based on the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) guidelines and Idaho standards for Stage 3, effective as of the date listed above. For updated information, contact our office. 

The CDC provides some guidance for homeowners’ associations that operate public pools and hot tubs. The State of Idaho follows CDC guidance and finds “proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools, hot tubs or spas, and water playgrounds should inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.” Both outdoor and indoor pools are permitted to operate in Idaho according to the Stage 3 guidelines. Based on the CDC recommendations, we provide the following advice for homeowners’ associations considering reopening a common area pool:

  • Remind patrons to wash hands often and wear a mask while not swimming.

The CDC website has several signs that should be posted in the pool area to remind patrons to wash their hands and use a mask. Before opening the pool, the board of directors of the association should send an email or letter to members, reminding them of the importance of washing hands and wearing a mask in the common areas while not swimming. The association should also remind members to stay home and not use the pool area if they are sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.

  • Make sure there are enough supplies at the pool.

Necessary supplies include hand soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, and no-touch trash cans. The association should ensure these supplies are readily available to patrons at the pool area. It may be helpful to have a staff member present at the pool area to ensure supplies are stocked and ensure compliance with other health and safety guidelines. 

  • Clean the pool area regularly.

Frequently touched surfaces in the pool area should be cleaned and disinfected daily, including: handrails, structures for climbing or playing, lounge chairs, table tops, door handles, surfaces of restrooms, handwashing stations, and showers. 

Certain items, such as lounge chairs, for example, should not be used by another patron until disinfected. The association may want to consider having a staff member present at the pool area while it is open to ensure lounge chairs are disinfected after each use. It may be helpful to have small signs that can be placed on chairs when they are disinfected, that are removed during and after the chair has been used. Members should be informed of these policies before the pool is opened.

  • Ensure safe ventilation and water systems.

The association should ensure that the ventilation system is operating properly if the pool is indoors. The association should also take steps to ensure all water systems are safe to use after the facility has been shut down for a prolonged period of time.

  • Modify the pool area layout.

The association should change the layout of the pool area to ensure patrons can stay at least 6 feet apart from non-family members both in and out of the pool. Seating areas should be spaced apart. Signs should be posted, reminding patrons to stay 6 feet apart. Within the pool, the association may consider using lane lines to divide the pool into separate areas.

  • Minimize the number of patrons.

The association may want to implement a sign-up system to limit the number of patrons within the pool area at one time. Members could be required to sign-up in advance or on a list at the door up to a certain threshold. The association will need to determine the proper number of patrons that can adequately social distance within the pool area. 

  • Notify Members if a pool patron gets sick.

The association should request that members notify the board of directors of the association if they test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of using the pool area. After receiving such notice, the association should notify the members of the incident and should close the pool area to thoroughly clean and disinfect the pool area before re-opening. 

These recommendations are not intended to be exhaustive, but merely provide a starting point for considering whether a homeowners’ association is ready to reopen a common area pool. Legal risks in this area lack certainty due to the evolving nature of the pandemic. The association should clearly document steps taken to comply with CDC and Idaho guidelines, and may want to consider having members sign a waiver before using the pool. 

For further information on managing a homeowners’ association during the pandemic, contact our office.

This blog post is designed to provide general information on pertinent legal topics. The statements made are provided for educational purposes only. This blog does not provide legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Smith + Malek, PLLC. If you want to create an attorney-client relationship and have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your own circumstances, you should contact our office.