The COVID-19 Pandemic has upended everyone’s life in unimaginable fashion. This is especially so where it strikes in a common living situation.
Multi-unit residential dwellings, whether apartment buildings or condominiums, present unique challenges when a resident has tested positive.
By all means, building management, whether a property management company, a condominium board or otherwise, should encourage residents to voluntarily report a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. And appropriate steps to mitigate risks (additional cleaning of common spaces, partial or total closure of non-essential common areas, etc.) should be taken – if they have not already been put in place.
Living through the pandemic is stressful for everyone, and it can be tempting to overreact when the virus is discovered among us, particularly in a multi-resident, multi-unit building. Building management’s response, however, must be reasonable. For example, significant privacy concerns surround notifying other residents of an individual’s self-reported positive diagnosis – and “naming names” when a resident is sick does not further anyone’s interest. Similarly, adopting reactionary new rules restricting the rights of building residents who have tested positive may go too far.
As a starting point, we suggest that property management look to the Center for Disease Control and Massachusetts Department of Public Health self-quarantine and self-isolation guidelines as a baseline for a reasonable response to a resident’s positive diagnosis.
Before enacting new rules in response to (or in anticipation of) a resident’s positive diagnosis and potentially going beyond the CDC and DPH’s guidelines, building management, a condominium board, or a landlord should confer with counsel to ensure those rules are necessary, appropriate and enforceable.