COVID-19 News and Updates
On May 8, Governor Northam issued Executive Order 61 (EO61), which begins “Phase 1” of the Commonwealth’s planned gradual reopening of certain businesses and activities. EO61 goes into effect at midnight on May 15 and continues through June 10 (subject to change). However, some cities and counties (including Northern Virginia) are contemplating a delay in the Phase 1 reopening due to continuing COVID-19 infection trends, so it is important to monitor related announcements from local governments.
Of particular interest to community associations, EO61 allows recreation centers, pools and certain sports and exercise facilities to reopen but only for outdoor activities and only if several significant restrictions are implements. Indoor recreational activities remain prohibited. In addition, keep in mind that the stay-at-home Order (EO55) still imposes social distancing requirements and still prohibits social gatherings of more than 10 individuals.
Per EO61 and guidance published by the Governor’s Office, the following are some of the mandates that must be followed when opening outdoor recreational facilities during Phase 1:
* Hot tubs, spas, splash pads, spray pools, interactive play features, basketball courts and racquetball courts must remain closed.
* Outdoor swimming pools can open but for lap swimming only, with one person per lane. Indoor swimming pools and related areas must remain closed.
* All seating in pool areas must remain closed.
* Employees working in customer-facing areas must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth. Lifeguards responding to distressed swimmers are exempt from this requirement.
* Must provide hand sanitizing stations, including at the entrance/exit.
* Must strictly follow the physical distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and enhanced workplace safety practices provided in the “Guidelines for All Business Sectors” document located on the Governor’s website (https://www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia).
Virginia General Assembly Passes Legislation Authorizing 100% “Virtual” Board Meetings During Declared Emergencies
As we all know, it has been a challenge for community association boards to hold meetings during the COVID pandemic. Under the existing requirements of Virginia’s Property Owners’ Association and Condominium Acts, at least two directors must be physically present at a board meeting in order for the rest of the board to attend remotely by audio or video conference. However, physically assembling will no longer be required during the pandemic emergency, as long as the Governor signs the pending legislation, as expected.
On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed two House budget bills, which included provisions added by the Governor authorizing Common Interest Community governing boards to meet 100% “virtually” (without the requirement of any director being physically present) during the period of a state emergency declared by the Governor, as long as certain requirements are met. House Bill 29 should become effective immediately, while House Bill 30 will go into effect on July 1, 2020.
What does this mean for association board meetings?
Both bills provide that when the Governor declares a state of emergency, an association’s board of directors may meet by electronic communication means without any board member or homeowner physically present at a stated meeting place, so long as the following criteria are met:
(1) the nature of the emergency makes it impracticable or unsafe to assemble in a single location; and
(2) the purpose of the board meeting is (a) to discuss or transact business that is statutorily required or (b) necessary to continue the operation of the association and the discharge of its lawful purposes, duties and responsibilities.
In order to lawfully conduct a 100% virtual board meeting under the above circumstances, an association’s board must also comply with the following:
the board must give notice of the meeting to owners, contemporaneously with notice provided to directors, using the best available method given the nature of the emergency; and
the board must make arrangements for owners to have access to the meeting through electronic means including, to the extent practicable, videoconferencing technology; and
if the electronic means of communication allows, the board must provide owners with an opportunity to comment; and
the board must distribute meeting minutes to owners in the same method used to provide the meeting notice, and the minutes must state the nature of the emergency, the fact that the meeting was held by electronic communication means, and the type of electronic communication means that was used.
As long as the pandemic emergency remains (as determined by the Governor), boards may have virtual meetings as noted above. When the emergency ends, the prior rules will return.
As we noted on our previous CWMEB Journal postings, we believed that the pandemic-related lockdown orders already constituted valid reasons for postponing membership meetings or having “virtual” board meetings for community associations. Still, this new legislation confirms that association board meetings may be carried out virtually without threat of being seen as illegal or inappropriate under the law. We are glad to report that the legislation has been adopted and now only requires the Governor’s signature to become Virginia law. Please check our website for updates on the Governor formalizing this legislation.
We are available and here to assist you in planning for and complying with these new requirements, especially in the event your board intends to conduct a 100% virtual board meeting.