With the number of fully vaccinated individuals increasing, many industries are setting the standard to safely reopen businesses. For example, the CDC is allowing cruise ships to resume sailing by July 2021 without conducting test cruises as long as 95% of guests have received the vaccine. New York is the first state to introduce a vaccine passport, a digital app where individuals can securely store electronic copies of their vaccine cards to show as proof before they can be allowed to attend large events such as games.
HOA’s offer their community members access to many amenities such as gyms, pools, and clubhouses that make association living enjoyable. Since board members often host events to bring the community together, there is the concern of liability and community safety. Thus, board members are now asking: Can HOA’s require residents show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to use amenities or attend events?
Vaccinations are a relatively new topic that HOAs are beginning to have discussions about and there’s no clearly defined answer yet. Given that, this blog article lists some things to keep in mind about proof of vaccination. We’ll also discuss how a community can take steps to mitigate risk while starting to reopen.
First, it’s important to frequently check your state’s or local regulations on whether businesses can ask for proof of vaccination. For example, Florida passed a law that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from customers to access their services. Thus, HOA’s that are incorporated and considered a legal entity in the state wouldn’t be able to mandate vaccine proof.
Consult with your association lawyer
As a board member, you’re likely to be concerned about the community’s liability in the event there is an outbreak. Thus, it’s best to consult with your lawyer. Sarah Metcalf, a Business Manager at Pelican Cove Condominium Assn, Inc. in Florida, says that “My understanding is the Law [Florida State] prohibits requiring vaccination proof; however, if the Board ask this question I will tell them that we need legal counsels opinion.”
Could there be any special scenarios in which a community may require proof of vaccination? Adam Clark, Chief Operating Officer at Excel Association Management in Texas, shares, “I think the communities most likely to implement this kind of requirement would be in 55 and up communities. All normal precautions (masks, sanitizing items before and after use) should still be observed regardless of vaccinations. If a community requires proof of vaccination, and it has been given the okay by their attorney, they would likely need to hire some kind of service which would validate vaccination cards prior to letting people into the amenities.”
Understanding resident rights and concerns
Residents may have many concerns about sharing information about their vaccinations with businesses. Before requiring proof of vaccination in your community, consider the following:
- Exemptions from vaccinations – Some residents are medically or religiously exempt from getting a vaccine so it’s important that any rules acknowledge these exemptions.
- HIPAA Law – HIPAA protects an individual’s right to keep their medical records, including COVID-19 vaccinations private. As always, be sure to consult with your association lawyer on how to best handle this.
- Resident’s right to amenities – Resident’s right to amenities may be listed in the community’s governing documents. In place of requiring vaccination proof, associations may be able to place restrictions on the use of an amenity. For example, many associations that are reopening their pools such as those managed by Professional Association Services in California, are restricting access only to the unit.
What can you do to ensure safety in reopening the community?
There are other steps you can take to reopen amenities and host events safely if vaccination proof isn’t an option.
Abide by local, state, and national regulations
Susan Hoffman, the Owner of Professional Association Services in California, says that their associations are reopening pools with the guidance of their local laws. The pool reopening plans include restricting users to the unit, implementing capacity limits, setting time limits per unit for use, requiring masks out of the pool, and requiring residents to sanitize certain equipment like chairs after use.
The CDC is also an essential resource for health and safety guidelines. According to guidance that the CDC released on April 27th, 2021, “Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors, except in certain crowded settings and venues.”
Survey your residents and then hold board meeting(s) to develop a plan for safe reopening
Survey your residents to understand how they feel about reopening amenities and being part of community events. Are there certain amenities they want open more than others? Would they rather have online virtual events with no limit on the number of people that attend? Or would they prefer in-person events with a limited number of people and social distancing? Can you develop a phased approach to reopening amenities and hosting events to make it safe and comfortable for everyone? Once you have gained feedback, host a board meeting to develop a plan.
Continue to implement health and safety guidelines
Regardless of whether you can require vaccination proof or not, it’s important to continue practicing local health and safety guidelines. For example, Massachusetts has released guidance on the safe reopening of pools. Their guidelines include social distancing, face coverings in indoor pools (with medical exemptions), limited capacity in changing areas, spacing out pool furniture, sanitization, ventilation requirements, and other rules to adhere to.
Communicate with your residents
Once your community has developed a safety plan, be sure to communicate it with your residents. Use a mix of traditional methods such as direct mail and digital methods such as your website, email, and text. That way, you can reach your residents at the right place and time. Pilera community management platform empowers board members and managers to keep residents informed in multiple ways. Pilera’s automated communication product enables you to send email, text, and phone messages to your residents. You can segment your communication by location or user type. Complement your electronic communications with Pilera’s HOA website that is mobile-friendly and fully customizable. Post documents and other useful information on your website that residents can access with a secure login.
Can HOA’s require residents to show proof of vaccination to use amenities or attend events? To get the most accurate guidance for your community, be sure to refer to the laws and consult with your association lawyer. Continue implementing health and safety guidelines set by your county. For every decision made, communicate it with your residents so you can deliver a safe and enjoyable environment this summer.
Disclaimer: This article does not contain any legal advice. Be sure to consult with your association lawyer before developing any policy.