COVID Questions Protecting Privacy, Service Calls, & Access Control

With COVID-19 number surging nationwide, many of the questions that arose at the start of the pandemic last spring have come back into the foreground. Boards and property managers are struggling to explain - and enforce - rules around masking, social distancing, and disclosure of sensitive personal health information. Andrew Brucker, a co-op and condo attorney based in New York City, offers some insight on a trio of questions weighing heavily on the minds of multifamily community administrators across the country: 

Q. If a resident tests positive for COVID-19, or is self-quarantined, should we tell the other residents and staff?

A. Residents should be notified if the board or management receives notification that someone tests positive for COVID-19 in the building. However the name and apartment number of the resident should not be disclosed to the other residents. If a board learns someone has decided to self-quarantine, the board should not disclose this. People self-quarantine for many reasons, and may not pose an immediate or imminent danger. Regardless of what the residents are told, they must continue to act appropriately: wash hands with soap often, use disinfectant on surfaces, and keep hands away from their mouth, nose and eyes.

Q. Should employees make service calls inside apartments?

A. Before making a service call, staff is permitted to ask residents if they are sick or have been exposed to the virus. We believe that, rather than put staff in that position, the board may want to direct that all service calls be suspended. Emergencies must be dealt with individually.

Q. Can we ban all non-residents from the building?

A. It is very impractical to ban all non-residents. For example, a child might want to visit their elderly parent who lives alone. While boards may ban large gatherings, or limit the number of people who will be permitted into an apartment for an event, we have seen no such governmental guidelines which recommend limiting all guests to multi-family dwellings. However, encouraging residents not to invite non-residents into the building is certainly a sensible idea. As to banning certain non-residents (such as dog walkers, tutors, nannies, etc.), it certainly would be prudent, but boards must consider each on a case-by-case basis based on a number of considerations.

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