Well into the second summer of COVID, owners and residents of New Jersey condos and HOAs are reporting that their boards have chosen to keep community pools closed this season—and those that have opened usually did so later in the season, with strict limitations in place to prevent the continued spread of the virus.
The Community Associations Institute (CAI) conducted a survey this spring of nearly 1,000 members and found that three main factors contributed to closure continuations: fear of legal exposure; inability to meet federal, state, or local requirements; and concerns about spreading coronavirus.
For New Jersey associations, the first concern might have been alleviated in some respects by the recent passage of a law that gives residential developments immunity from COVID-related liability, except in cases of “a crime, actual fraud, actual malice, gross negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct.” As CooperatorNews New Jersey has previously reported, this law was in response to the increasing discontent and even threats of litigation that community association board members were hearing from members and other residents over boards’ decision to close or restrict amenities to prevent the spread of COVID in their communities—and the liability exposure that might follow if someone claimed to have been infected on the property. With insurance companies unwilling to indemnify directors and officers from any virus-related legal action, boards were stuck between a rock and a hard place in avoiding harm to their communities from both legal costs and viral spread.
The second concern became less germane heading into summer, as more people got vaccinated, and more and more jurisdictions started to relax their COVID requirements accordingly. CAI reports that the Kings Grant Open Space Association in Marlton, New Jersey waited until late May to open some of their pool amenities, when the state released its updated guidance. In accordance with that guidance, they opened with caveats: reducing capacity, enacting a reservation system, enforcing mask wearing and social distancing on the pool deck, and employing a COVID attendant, among other restrictions. Since they did not have lifeguard supervision for the children’s splash pad, however, the association chose to keep that amenity closed for the summer. CAI reports that the community is fine with the compromises.
Other associations were not swayed by the new legislation or relaxed requirements. As News 12 New Jersey reports, Sands Point North—a condo complex in Monmouth Beach—received a rider to its insurance policy this spring stating that if the pool turns into a super-spreader site, or if anyone gets sick from the virus and files a lawsuit, the board won’t be covered. According to the outlet, the condo association’s three insurance providers—Philadelphia Indemnity, Commercial General Liability, and Allianz Insurance—have all changed their policies to include “Communicable Disease Exclusions.” The board’s attorney tells News 12 New Jersey that waivers of liability won’t hold up, leaving the board no choice but to keep the pool closed.