What can I do if my building isn’t following local COVID-19 rules? What you can do about it and how to keep yourself safe.
Q: Our city maintains a list of states that have high COVID-19 cases and requires local residents or visitors to quarantine for two weeks after traveling to these states.
One of our doormen recently vacationed in one of these states, came back to work, became sick and was hospitalized. He returned to our condo building without doing his two-week quarantine. When questioned, our management company tells me that they were aware of the rules but took no action, putting us all at risk.
What actions can we take since it doesn’t appear that the management company is willing to do anything? They don’t acknowledge the requirement to quarantine and we pay them out of our assessments. Are we breaking the law? Should we contact the city since this is a city rule? I would appreciate any suggestions you have so we know what to do.
What Can I Do If the Building I Live in Isn’t Following COVID-19 Rules?
A: We hate to say this, but whatever you do will likely open up a can of worms. You probably live in a high rise condominium building. Sometimes management companies aren’t responsive to the complaints of unit owners but sometimes it’s the homeowners themselves that go overboard.
You mentioned that one of the condo building’s employees was sick and hospitalized. We hope he has made a full recovery. You didn’t mention if the employee was officially diagnosed with COVID-19. If he got COVID-19 and has since fully recovered, we assume he was tested and his tests for the virus have come up negative. If he tested negative, most of the research shows that he should be fine to return to work.
Can I File a Complaint with the City?
Sometimes you have to dig deeper into an issue before you start calling government officials. You live in a condominium building. If you call the city and file a complaint, it’s unclear what action the city would take. Depending on who takes the call, they might do nothing or they could cite the building for some sort of violation. They might also send the police to check on the building, or they might decide to send city inspectors.
Remember, that if the building is fined, you will pay that fine indirectly through your assessments. And, if the city fines the building and the building fights the fine or goes to court, all of those expenses will have to get paid directly or indirectly by the unit owners.
At this point, your neighbors would be unhappy, and the building management would be unhappy, and all this unhappiness would fall on the members of the condo association board of directors. It has the potential to make living in your building an unhappy and exasperating experience for everyone.
The real question is what is the risk to you if someone in the building (or in your community) gets COVID-19. Ideally, those people will self-quarantine in their respective apartments or homes and the building management team will send home the sick employee and do a deep cleaning of any spaces the sick employee may have touched or been active in.
What If the Management Company Isn’t Enforcing COVID-19 Rules?
If the management company doesn’t take these actions or isn’t doing a good job managing the situation, you might want to talk to bring your concerns to the condo association board. They can address the issue with the management company and take the appropriate next steps. The central issue is whether the management company handled the situation incorrectly and put you and the other homeowners at risk.
The COVID-19 virus has put many Americans on edge, for different reasons. Some are worried about their heath and that of their loved ones. Some are worried about their livelihoods and long-term financial stability. And others are concerned about the education their children are receiving.
All the information being disseminated can be overwhelming and scary. We suggest taking a step back and a deep breath. You can’t control everything around you, but what you can do in your building is make sure you follow all the steps you believe are necessary to protect yourself.
How to Keep Yourself Safe
If you don’t trust that the people working your building might be healthy when they work, you should stay farther away from them. Wait, respectfully, until you can take an elevator by yourself, if that makes you feel safer. If you want to wear a more protective mask, do that as well. This is how you can control your environment while maintaining a peaceful life in close living quarters.
We know this response will likely get to you well after your own building’s situation is resolved. But, it’s likely to come up again for someone else. We hope all of our readers can stay safe, and reasonable, through a remarkably unreasonable time.