COVID-19 vaccinations are a controversial topic — even in homeowners associations (HOAs) and condominium owners associations (COAs). If you’re wondering what this means for your neighborhood, this article will cover everything HOAs and COAs need to know about requiring COVID-19 vaccines in their community.
Can HOAs require homeowners to get vaccinated?
As COVID-19 vaccines continue to be rolled out across the country, many HOAs and COAs are asking if they can (and should) require their residents to get vaccinated. While the Board of Directors has the authority to implement rules and regulations, they can only control certain aspects of the association. For instance, HOAs have the authority to create rules concerning the use of shared spaces, such as pools and playgrounds. Since last year, associations across the U.S. have been enforcing rules regarding social distancing.
HOA board members must be aware of the extent of their authority. To do this, they must take a deep dive into the governing documents of the HOA. Alternatively, they can ask their association management company to review their rule-making powers.
However, there’s a chance that the HOA can’t require residents to be vaccinated. It is simply not within the scope of the Board of Directors. Remember, the board has the authority to enforce “reasonable” rules, but it’s unlikely that COVID-19 vaccinations fall within this category.
What are the risks of requiring COVID-19 vaccinations in HOAs?
If the HOA requires COVID-19 vaccinations for all residents, this could result in more harm than good. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you shouldn’t require COVID-19 vaccinations in your HOA-regulated community:
#1 Medical Privacy Concerns
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) states that individuals have the right to privacy when it comes to medical matters. This means that homeowners have the right not to provide their private health information. This includes proof of their COVID-19 vaccination.
If your HOA forces homeowners to divulge whether or not they’ve been vaccinated, this is simply unlawful. Homeowners may consider this as an invasion of their privacy.
#2 Medical Reasons
Your HOA needs to understand that some individuals cannot be vaccinated due to their medical conditions. If your HOA enforces rules that favor vaccinated individuals, this could result in serious discrimination issues. For instance, if your HOA requires only unvaccinated individuals to wear masks in common areas, this could be considered discriminatory.
A better alternative would be to require everyone to continue wearing masks in common areas. This prevents unvaccinated individuals from feeling discriminated against.
#3 Right to Use Common Areas
Your HOA can’t force residents to be vaccinated to use the common areas. This is because homeowners have the inherent right to use the association’s amenities, such as pools and playgrounds. If your HOA bans unvaccinated homeowners from these areas, this violates their rights.
Moreover, this creates a “class system” within your multi-family property. Your HOA should never show preferential treatment towards those who’ve been vaccinated.
#4 Violation of the Law
In some states such as Florida, businesses are legally not allowed to discriminate against unvaccinated individuals. For example, the state of Florida has banned businesses from requiring a “vaccination passport” from people who wish to enter their premises.
What can your HOA require?
Although your HOA can’t require homeowners to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it can require service providers to be vaccinated. If your HOA is being overseen by a property management company, they can help your association look for fully vaccinated contractors.
How can your HOA continue to keep the community safe?
Vaccines aren’t the only way to ensure safety within an HOA-regulated community. There are other steps that your HOA can take to continue to keep the community safe. Here are a few:
#1 Encourage Vaccination
You can’t force your residents to get vaccinated, but you can encourage them. Explain the advantages of getting the COVID-19 vaccine to your residents, but don’t require them to head to the nearest vaccination site. Ask your HOA secretary or association manager to take care of this.
You should also consider using an online portal such as AppFolio to share updates with the members of the association. This can include advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
#2 Continue Following Health Protocols
Vaccinations have been rolled out across the country, but that doesn’t mean people should stop practicing social distancing. This also applies to other health protocols such as hand-washing, hand-sanitizing, and so on.
Although your HOA can’t force residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it can enforce rules that promote safety. If possible, install automatic hand sanitizer dispensers in common areas such as activity rooms. You can also place social distancing stickers on the floor.
#3 Lend Space to the Health Department
Does your HOA-regulated community have a clubhouse? You should consider allowing the local health department to turn it into a temporary vaccination site. This encourages homeowners to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as it’s more convenient. However, be ready for pushback as some people won’t be too happy about having non-residents in the area.
#4 Require Cleaning Staff to Wear Protective Equipment
Don’t put your cleaning staff at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Chances are, your HOA has more than enough in its reserve, so provide your cleaning personnel with the proper protective equipment. In addition, purchase powerful disinfectants that can thoroughly clean high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, walls, and elevator buttons. Now isn’t the time to cut back when it comes to cleanliness.
It’s time to take action
Your HOA has the responsibility to ensure everyone’s safety. While you can’t require residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine, you can continue to practice social distancing, hand washing, and so on. Essentially, your HOA should simply continue to enforce the health protocols that were in place since last year.
If your HOA ever needs assistance during this uncertain time, you can always count on Luxury Property Care. Our property managers will ensure that your homeowners continue to feel safe within their community — without violating any of their rights.