By: Shibley Righton Condo Group -
The novel coronavirus and its resulting illness (COVID-19) have the potential to disproportionately affect residents of buildings with shared indoor spaces such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and amenity rooms. While, as set out below, buildings with concierge services may be in a better position to implement controls to limit the spread of COVID-19, there are steps that all boards/management may take in an effort to secure the safety of residents. Below are our answers to a few frequently asked questions from our clients. While there is no “one size fits all” answer, the comments below can hopefully help guide your community. Can access to the building be restricted to residents only? No. Delivery personnel and other essential visitors will be necessary to assist residents who are infected with COVID-19, in self quarantine or practicing social distancing. Notices should be posted and sent to residents advising that only essential visitors will be permitted, such as food/supply delivery personnel and wellness/healthcare providers. Can visitors be asked questions or made to take protective measures before entering the building? Yes. In a building with a concierge, a visitor can be asked to identify whether they have recently travelled out of the country or are experiencing a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If the visitor answers “yes” to any of those questions, or refuses to answer, then access to the building may be prohibited. Everyone entering the building should be asked to make use of available hand sanitizer. Should we prohibit delivery personnel from entering the elevators and delivering directly to residents? If the building has a concierge, most deliveries should be left with the concierge. The concierge can accept the package on behalf of the resident. This limits the number of strangers accessing the hallways and other common elements. Residents who are healthy should continue to collect their packages from the concierge. Healthy residents should be asked to meet any food delivery personnel at the front door of the building. Residents who are unwell or in self quarantine should be asked to remain in their suites and deliveries should be left with the concierge and can then be placed outside the resident’s door. Where there is no concierge, a neighbour may be asked to retrieve the delivery and leave it outside their suite door. A digital message board among resident can help to facilitate this. Residents should be encouraged to request "no-contact" delivery in the delivery instructions of any online or mobile app order. What about dog walking services? Healthy residents who are at home should bring their dogs down to the building doors to be handed off to and picked up from a dog walker. Where residents are not home or in quarantine/self-isolating, dog walkers may be required to pick up and drop off dogs directly from a unit. In such cases, buildings should consider strict protocols as to how access to a unit is granted. Like all other visitors, dog walkers who have recently travelled out of the country or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 may be denied access and a resident may have to find an alternate dog walker. Can access to the amenity areas be restricted or prohibited? Yes, and it is recommended. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, boards are justified to restrict or prohibit access to amenity areas (gyms, theatre rooms, boardrooms, pools, guest suites, etc.) and cancel any bookings indefinitely. Taking steps designed to limit the possible spread of COVID-19 is consistent with a condominium corporation’s obligations under section 117 of the Condominium Act to not permit a condition to exist or carry on an activity that is likely to cause in jury to an individual. Could the corporation be liable for the closure of amenities or the cancellation of events/bookings? In our opinion, it is very unlikely that a corporation would be held liable. A corporation’s obligation to keep its community safe takes precedence over these facilities. Could owners be entitled to reimbursement of monthly fees if the use of amenity areas is restricted or prohibited? No. Does the board have a different duty of care to residents who are under a medical isolation? No. The standard of care remains unchanged. The board is required to act honestly and in good faith and to exercise the care, diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances. The board should make decisions that are consistent with the information and recommendation provided by the relevant health authorities. What other steps can the board take to support residents who are voluntarily self-isolating? If not already done, we would recommend that a corporation:
▪install additional hand sanitizing stations;▪increase the frequency of common area cleaning and consider undergoing special chemical treatments to limit the spread of infection, even if they result in an increased cost to the corporation; and▪ensure residents know how to contact the board/management to address concerns. A resident is returning to the building to be quarantined after a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. What can the board/management do? Many boards have asked residents to advise the board/management of any positive diagnosis of COVID-19, if they are being sent home to be quarantined and/or if they are self-isolating due to potential exposure. The board/management should take steps to coordinate with such a resident to reduce the likelihood that the resident interacts with any other resident or staff (for example, using the service elevator or designated stairwell to get the resident to their suite) and that the common areas accessed by such a resident are immediately cleaned and properly sanitized. Everyone has a role to play in "flattening the curve" and the board/management should take all reasonable steps to keep residents safe and secure in these uncertain times.