IT’S BEEN TWO YEARS, and we’ve had enough of it. We want a return to normal. I get it. Nobody wants to hear, read, speak, or even think about the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s hard not to. It’s pervasive, and it continues to color our everyday decisions.
As a community association attorney and litigator, I’ve certainly dealt with my share of issues related to COVID-19. Virtually anything and everything that could have happened in the communities that my firm represents did happen since March 2020.
There’s no denying the toll the pandemic has taken—the lives lost and interrupted, the economic ramifications, the mental burden, and more. But what if I were to tell you that community associations actually learned some good things as a direct result of the pandemic? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Let’s count.
NUMBER 1: COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS CAN SURVIVE A PANDEMIC.
In fact, community associations have survived the pandemic thanks to the resilience and determination of community association board members, community managers, business partners, and residents. We are in a much different place now than where we were at this time last year. Several factors have made that possible, but the unwavering efforts of community association leaders must be acknowledged.
Difficult decisions had to be made in every community from the outset of the pandemic—whether it was how to handle the economic impact of resident unemployment and the potential nonpayment of association assessments, the closure of community pools and gyms, how to have meetings, whether to allow guests, whether to require face masks, or looking out for the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of residents who were home probably more than they ever have been. Community associations around the country deserve a round of applause.
NUMBER 2: FOR THE MOST PART, COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION RESIDENTS DO THE RIGHT THING WHEN ASKED.
After the pandemic started, community association leaders were put in a position to act quickly and ask residents to do things they never had to do before, including wearing masks around the community, maintaining a social distance from one another, not using facilities and amenities, and participating in meetings virtually.
Based on the communities that my firm represents, I believe that the vast majority of community association residents were not only cooperative (with rare exceptions, of course), but many of the residents went above and beyond in many different ways.
NUMBER 3: EVEN WHEN FACED WITH AN EMERGENCY LIKE A PANDEMIC, MOST COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION RESIDENTS STILL PAY THEIR ASSESSMENTS ON TIME OR MAKE ARRANGEMENTS TO PAY.
We learned that despite the impact of the pandemic, the overall delinquency rate in most community associations did not increase substantially. Of course, community association leaders had no way to predict if this, or the opposite, would end up being the outcome.
What we did know is that, not too long after the pandemic started, some community association residents were laid off, and unemployment compensation payments were not immediately sent to these residents. The worst-case scenario would have been that a majority of residents could not pay their assessments, leading to community association budget cuts, decreased services, and failed payments to staff members and business partners. Fortunately, this did not happen.
Instead, we saw residents reaching out to the board to make arrangements to pay their assessments, and boards worked with residents as needed—often allowing them to enter into payment plans and waiving late fees or interest on any delinquency that started after March 2020.
It appears that while the pandemic has had a massive financial impact on the global economy, the overall financial impact on community associations was not as drastic, at least to date. Let’s hope it stays that way, especially as we move into the next phase of the global crisis.
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