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Dealing With Coronavirus Exposure Board Powers & Limitations

The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the tension between the rights of the community and the rights of individuals. For now, governments are relying on their inherent police power to protect the community at large. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines currently require travelers arriving from “high-risk” countries such as China, Iran and Italy to be separated at the airports, and only allowed to proceed to their destinations if asymptomatic. The CDC is “strongly urging” all travelers to “self-monitor” for 14 days for symptoms, which means remaining in their homes during that period. Travelers exhibiting symptoms are instructed to “self-quarantine” in the same manner; those who fail to comply have been threatened with arrest by local and state governmental agencies. According to the CDC website, “Isolation for public health purposes may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health order."

Board Powers 

Condos and co-ops (which we will refer to as ‘associations’ for the sake of this article), though, do not have governmental authority. They have to rely on the powers conferred on them in their governing documents to control the behavior of their residents. Generally speaking, an association has the right to deny owners access to common facilities on a non-discriminatory basis -- but no one has addressed the limits of an association’s power to restrict the actions of an individual owner. Meanwhile, owners are asking their boards what steps are being taken to protect their building or HOA against an outbreak within the community.

Most co-op proprietary leases and condominium bylaws, or their accompanying house rules and regulations, include clauses similar to the following:

‘...No Unit shall be used or occupied in such a manner as to interfere with the occupants or owners of adjoining Units, or endanger or unreasonably annoy them. No nuisance shall be committed or permitted to occur in or about the Units or the Common Elements…’

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