A significant portion (41%) of community association pools have not opened this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 30% of communities have opened pools following a delay, according to a new report released by Community Associations Institute (CAI).
CAI, the leading authority in community association education, governance, and management, conducted a survey of volunteer board members, community managers, and other industry stakeholders from late June to early July to understand how and why community associations made decisions regarding their pool(s).
According to the results, only 7% of respondents reported opening their pool on time. Several factors were behind the decision of communities that did not open their pool as regularly scheduled, including: fear of exposure to legal liability (58%); fear of spreading COVID-19 (50%); and attorney recommendation (48%). The communities that opened their pool reported instituting several new procedures, including: prohibiting guests (60%); requiring residents to sign a liability waiver (40%); and requiring residents to bring their own chairs (37%). Expenses related to the pool are higher than budgeted due to COVID-19 in roughly 35% of communities.
“The question to open a community association pool has been one of the most controversial and complicated topics facing condominiums and homeowners associations (HOAs) this season,” says Thomas M. Skiba, CAE, CAI’s chief executive officer. “Unfortunately, it’s not a one-size-fits-all model, and the decisions to open or not open are tailored to each community and specific to their unique circumstances. Communities have to consider guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local requirements, the association’s ability to set and enforce rules, liability, resident sentiment, safety, and expenses. CAI is encouraging state and federal legislators to provide limited liability protections to community associations that, after careful consideration and compliance with the appropriate government guidelines, have decided to open pools for their residents.”
Some additional findings could reflect the different approaches taken by government in each state to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and the differing philosophies on reopening. For example:
• More than 80% of respondents in New Jersey, 56% in Maryland, and 55% in Pennsylvania reported their pool is closed. These states had some of the more prolonged and restrictive stay-at-home orders.
• By contrast, fewer than 10% of respondents in Florida, 24% in Texas, and 29% in North Carolina reported their pool is closed. These states had some of the shorter and least restrictive stay-at-home orders.
• In New Jersey in particular, fear of exposure to legal liability (84%), lack of insurance coverage (74%), and attorney recommendation (74%) kept pools closed.
• For the communities that opened pools, those in Texas (71%), Nevada (71%), Arizona (70%), and California (66%) lead the way in prohibiting guests.
• In Texas, 65% of communities require residents to sign a liability waiver, and 44% require residents to bring their own chairs.