Coronavirus: Practical Tips for Common Ownership Communities

by Thomas C. Schild and Scott J. Silverman

A new phase of the increasingly widespread Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) unfolded in mid-March, 2020 as federal, state, and local governments  recommended that everyone Stay Home to limit the spread of the coronavirus. New restrictions have been imposed on restaurants, bars, gyms and other public places. Schools are closed and many retail stores are closing for at least several weeks… and maybe much longer. Government health officials recommend that group gatherings be limited to no more than 10 people.

While the duration and impact of COVID-19 locally and throughout the United States is still unknown, it is certain that condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing co-operatives must adapt their practices and procedures to the ongoing health crisis. More owners and residents will be staying home. In multi-family high-rise and mid-rise buildings, this will mean increased use of common area lobbies, hallways, elevators and stairs. Some residents may want to use common amenities such sitting areas in halls and lobbies, gyms and meeting rooms. In HOA communities, there may be greater interest in using playgrounds and clubhouse facilities.

Although we defer to medical and health professionals on how to best protect against the spread of COVID-19, we offer a few practical tips on how community association boards, managers, and residents might adapt the management and operation of their community to the expected increase in the number of residents who are Staying Home.

1. Limit Interactions Among Residents and Staff.

We strongly urge community association leaders to follow the recommendations of the federal, state and local governments to protect against infection by engaging in social distancing and enhanced hygiene practices. This might include restricting residents from congregating in common area halls, lobbies, mailbox areas, clubhouses and other common areas. It might also include limiting association maintenance staff from performing in-unit maintenance, except for emergency work, and limiting in-person meetings in the management office.

2. Close Common Recreational Amenities.

To limit transmission of the coronavirus, the Board should close common recreational amenities such as gyms, meeting rooms, play equipment and clubhouses. As pool season nears, it is likely that state and local health officials will not allow pools to open. In any event, the Board may postpone the opening of pools and should discuss this with the pool management company.  

3. Increase Cleaning and Hygiene in Common Areas.

As far as the maintenance of association property is concerned, we encourage condo, co-op and HOA Boards to take all reasonable measures to clean and disinfect those common areas that are necessary to remain in service, such as building entrances and elevators, and to shut down access to all amenities that are not essential, such as community rooms and exercise rooms. Boards should consult with management and independent cleaning contractors as to the current industry standard and practice and follow such standards. We also suggest communicating to residents, employees and guests that essential common areas remaining open and available for use will be routinely cleaned and disinfected. However, individuals should take all recommended measures to protect themselves from infection by limiting their movements outside of their own homes, avoiding contact with surfaces that are commonly touched by other people, and physically distancing themselves from others as much as possible.

4. Inform and Instruct Residents and Staff.

As community association Board members and managers become aware that employees and/or residents have tested positive for the coronavirus or have (or are believed to have) contracted Coronavirus Disease, the Board should affirmatively communicate that information to all residents and employees , without identifying the individual to protect their privacy. Residents should be told that an actual and/or potential infection has been reported to the association, and that residents should routinely check the federal Centers for Disease Control and state and local government websites for information and updates on practices that should be followed to protect themselves and their families from the risk of infection. If the reported instance of infection involves an association employee, the employee should be asked not to come to work until cleared to do so by their health care provider. In general, any individual asking what can be done to avoid infection should be told to contact their health care provider for further information. No community association Board member, employee or manager should provide medical advice to residents or staff.

5. Hold Meetings by Audio or Video Conference Call.

In Maryland and the District of Columbia, community association statutes permit condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners associations to conduct their meetings remotely, so long as all participants can always hear one another throughout the meeting. That means that community association Boards can continue to make necessary decisions pertaining to their ongoing operations. Homeowners can protect their own health because they will not have to congregate together to do the business of the association, whether that business includes the elections scheduled to occur at the annual meeting or the budget discussion and approval to take place at a board meeting. For example, if the Board or management were to set up a conference call line, homeowners could call into that meeting and participate in that manner. For owner annual meetings and special meetings, owners can vote by proxy without attending in person. In Maryland, statutes allow homeowners to vote by electronic means in elections, or for governing document amendments, or to approve other actions that may be authorized only by a vote of the homeowners.

For YOUR community!

For condominium, homeowner association, and cooperative boards and managers, we are available by phone (301-251-1414) or e-mail ( or to advise you and respond to your questions and concerns regarding the impact of COVID-19 on community association rules, practices and procedures.

Meanwhile, we wish you the best and hope that all stay safe and healthy!

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Maryland–including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, and Baltimore County; and in Baltimore City and Washington, D.C.

U.S. Supreme Court Sidesteps Condo Assessment Dispute

The United States Supreme Court, during its recently-ended 2018 Term, declined  to review the decision of a federal appeals court that a condominium owner is not personally responsible for payment of assessments which become due after the owner files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition when the owner makes all payments under a bankruptcy payment plan approved by the Bankruptcy Court. Continue reading

2020 Vision: Maryland Condominium Legislative Update

Condominium insurance, replacement reserves and dispute resolution procedures were among the condominium and homeowners association topics which were considered during the 2019 Maryland legislative session.  However, virtually no new laws affecting community governance were enacted this year.

Looking ahead to 2020, legislation concerning insurance, reserves and dispute resolution is likely to introduced again.

Condominium Insurance Deductibles

Where damage to condominium units and common elements is caused by fire, water or other perils covered by the master property damage insurance, the Maryland Condominium Act requires a unit owner to pay up to the first $5,000 of repair expenses when the cause of the damage originates in that owner’s condominium unit.  While some condos choose a higher deductible, others can only obtain insurance with a deductible of $10,000 or more.  This leaves the condominium association responsible for repair expenses between $5,000 and the amount covered by insurance. Continue reading

HUD Urged to Limit Association Fair Housing Liability

More than two years after new fair housing rules regarding discriminatory actions of residents which create a hostile housing environment for other residents were adopted by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in October 2016, it remains uncertain what  community association boards and managers must do to avoid liability for not ending the discriminatory conduct of owners and other residents of condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives.

The HUD rules establish nationwide standards which HUD will apply in enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act with respect to alleged harassment based on race, religion, national origin, sex, familial status or disability.    In addition to liability for a person’s own conduct and the conduct of that person’s agents and employees, the 2016 fair housing rules also make a community association liable for failing to take prompt action to end a discriminatory housing practice by residents where the person knew, or should have known, of the discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it.  The HUD rule does not require that the housing provider have a discriminatory intent in not intervening to stop the resident’s discriminatory conduct. Continue reading

Condominium Owner Negligence Bars Claim Against Contractor

Where a condominium unit in Baltimore County, Maryland was damaged by steam escaping from the heating system when a unit owner hired a plumber to remove heat radiators in the unit  and was negligent by not requesting the contractor to re-install  the radiators after the unit was painted, the condo insurance carrier may not recover the cost to repair the unit from the plumbing contractor, a federal trial court in Maryland recently ruled.

The radiators were removed in July when the central heating system was not operating, and the unit owner did not request the contractor to re-install the radiators until November after the heating system had been tuned on. The cost of more than $120,000 to repair the damage to the unit was covered by the condominium’s property damage insurance.  The insurance company paid the condominium association which then paid the unit owner who hired a contractor to make the repairs to the unit.

The insurance carrier filed suit against the plumbing contractor to recover the amount it paid to the condominium.  The contractor contended that the claim should not be allowed because the unit owner was an insured under the condo master insurance policy and was negligent in not contacting the contractor to re-install the radiators. Continue reading

Short Term Rentals Now OK in Montgomery County, Maryland

Short term daily and weekly rentals are now allowed in all residential areas of Montgomery County, Maryland, beginning July 1, 2018.

Previously, no residential rentals were permitted in Montgomery County for less than 30 days.  Faced with widespread illegal daily and weekly rentals, the County Council passed legislation in October, 2017 to allow these rentals where the property is the primary residence of the owner or owner-authorized resident of the rental property. However, condominiums, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives are still allowed to ban or restrict short term rentals Continue reading