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coronavirus in condos

How To Deal With Coronavirus in Condos

Last week, the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a national pandemic. Condominium corporations, directors of the board, and property managers should be on high alert, taking the necessary preventative measures to ensure their properties are safe. It is important to note that the possibility of transmission will always exist, however, can be drastically reduced with good hygiene practice and knowing how to deal with Coronavirus in condominiums.

What Is Coronavirus?

The coronavirus (also known as “COVID-19”) is a virus which symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

As of March 16, Canada has 324 confirmed cases of coronavirus. At the time of writing this, Ontario has the highest number with 145 confirmed, and British Columbia and Alberta are close behind with 73 and 56 reported cases respectively. The contagious nature of this virus means that this number will continue to grow exponentially.

The transmissibility of this virus is much like the common cold. The virus can be passed on from person-to person or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. This is why officials are recommending social distancing to prevent the spread.

Travellers, particularly those who are returning home from Europe, Middle East, and Asia are at the highest risk. Anyone coming into Canada is being told to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor symptoms.

How Does Coronavirus Affect My Condo?

Condominiums house a high number of people living in close proximity to one another with shared common spaces. These shared spaces include elevators, fitness rooms, condo lobbies, etc. The traffic in these areas pose a high risk for contamination, especially when it comes to door handles and elevator buttons.

If you are feeling sick, are returning from travel, or are other wise high risk of infection, it is imperative to self-quarantine as per the Canadian government’s recommendations. As a condo owner, this means remaining within your unit and having people bring necessities to you, or only leaving for medical care.

What Are My Legal Obligations On Behalf Of The Condo Board?

Quite frankly, condo corporations are not fully equipped to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The jurisdiction of this surpasses property management – into the domain of public health and communicable diseases. Rod Escayola writes in Condo Advisor last week that, Condo corporations have a duty to “control, manage and administer the common elements and the assets of the corporation.”  Similarly, boards of directors have a duty to manage the affairs of the corporation. Simply put, condos are there to manage the property, not pandemics.

The corporation can make rules on “the safety, security or welfare of the owners”, however this does not specify how to go about a contagion like coronavirus. In section 117 of the Ontario Condo Act, any activity that is likely to cause bodily harm (in units or common areas) is prohibited. Does this legislation give the authority to quarantine someone in their unit? Not likely, but that does not absolve the board from their social responsibility as leaders for their community.

Josee Deslongchamps, an Ottawa condo manager, provided this very informative notice to owners on the coronavirus. Condo boards could share a notice similar to this, which requests those who are at risk to self-quarantine and refrain from using common property, in a respectful and factual manner. It also communicates what precautions are being taken by the condo corporation to protect owners.

How To Deal With Coronavirus in Condominiums?

It is not expected for condo corporations to have foolproof measures against coronavirus. However, property managers and directors of the board can fulfil their fiduciary duty by taking these basic precautions:
  • Ensure that commonly used common element areas (sanitary facilities, fitness rooms, lobby/garage entrance door handles and elevator call buttons) are kept clean and disinfected with industry appropriate products;
  • Install hand sanitizers in common areas, by the main doors or by the elevators;
  • Post signs reminding owners to be extra diligent when wiping fitness equipment;
  • Remind owners not to use the fitness room, the pool or the amenities if feeling sick;
  • Encourage occupants having travelled to high risk-zones to consider avoiding using the common amenities for 14 days;
  • Encourage occupants/employees to self-quarantine if required;
  • Encourage occupants/employees to report to the corporation should they have been infected by the virus. This could allow the corporation to take early measures;
  • In certain circumstances, it may be worth considering postponing some of your social events… and perhaps even the AGM depending on how things evolve in your areas.  You may want to consult with your legal counsel before you do so.
Taken from Condo Advisor: http://condoadviser.ca/2020/03/coronavirus-in-condos/condo-law-blog-Ontario

Condo boards could also take note of how Italian condo dwellers are keeping their spirits up with music, or how other residents are working out together from their balconies in Seville, Spain.

The Bottom Line

Good hygienic practices go a long way in combatting airborne viruses. Taking proper precautionary measures in your condominium will drastically reduce the spread of coronavirus. In keeping with your community’s policy on Discrimination and Inclusiveness, residents are reminded that acts of racism, xenophobia and other discriminatory behaviours should never be tolerated. A collaborative community effort is vital in effectively managing a pandemic as such.

Additional Resources

CHOA – Preventing Coronavirus: https://www.choa.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/600-014-Preventing-coronavirus.pdf

PAMA – What Do We Know and What Can We Do about COVID-19?: https://www.pama.ca/common/Uploaded%20files/pdfs/Almanac/COVID_19.pdf

ACMO – ACMO Coronavirus Advisory: https://acmo.org/acmo-coronavirus-statement

Normac is also taking precautionary measures to protect our staff, clients, and to do our part in preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Read more about our efforts here.

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