March 12, 2020

How Will Coronavirus Affect Your Community Association?

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to have serious consequences for many Washington condominium and homeowners associations.  Those associations' financial, maintenance, enforcement, and meeting policies may be significantly impacted by this crisis.  Prudent boards will anticipate virus-related problems and prepare for them.

A large number of owners may soon lose a substantial amount of income in the near future due to severe illness, lengthy school closures, and fewer hours at their jobs.  If the economy slips into recession, then some owners will become unemployed for lengthy periods.  Those events are likely to result in more unpaid assessments in the short to medium term.  Association boards should consider temporary adjustments to their policies concerning payment plans for unpaid assessments (for example, smaller payments over longer terms) and referral of delinquent accounts to attorneys for collection.  Boards should also anticipate an increased need to incur attorney fees in order to pursue legal action against seriously delinquent accounts.  As a result, they should consider increasing the amount provided for legal expenses in the association's budget.  

Given the probable increase in delinquencies in the near future, boards should consider delaying non-urgent maintenance and repair work for at least the next several months.  This will give them an opportunity to evaluate the effect of the virus on their associations' finances and to reschedule projects and reallocate funds if necessary.  However, boards should also consider arranging for commonly used items and surfaces in their associations' common areas to be cleaned and disinfected more frequently and thoroughly over the next several months in order to reduce the number of transmissions that occur in those areas.  

The difficulties that many owners will soon face due to sickness, child care, and loss of income may result in more antisocial behavior and covenant violations over in the short to medium term as well.  This may necessitate the imposition of more fines and more referrals to the association's attorney for enforcement action. A community association board in Washington state is not legally permitted to fine an owner until it has adopted a fine schedule, distributed it to all owners, and given the owner notice and an opportunity to be heard.

Given the necessity for a period of social distancing, associations may find it more difficult to hold meetings due to lack of quorums. Boards should consider temporarily allowing owners and directors to attend meetings by telephone or video-conference and to vote by mail or e-mail. Boards should also consider cancelling social gatherings in common areas for at least the next several months.