Should homeowner associations be advising on a public health threat?
You have most likely heard news coverage about Zika. The virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of certain kinds of infected mosquitoes. Illnesses from the virus are usually mild, however, worldwide concern is growing as it has been linked to health problems in some people. It remains a serious concern for pregnant women, their partners and couples planning a pregnancy as it can cause serious birth defects. There is currently no specific medicine or vaccine for the virus. 1
According to the New York State Department of Health, the only reported cases in New York are in people who acquired the virus while traveling to a Zika-affected region, or through sexual transmission from someone having traveled to those areas. 2
Condo and homeowner association boards may be asking what they should be doing given the attention and concern being paid to Zika.
The answer is, not much and be calm and cautious. Your board’s responsibility is to act in the best interests of homeowners. Determine your obligations as an association first. Review your governing documents. The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), Bylaws or the Rules and Regulations will include important information about the operations of the community and its property. Your property management company, working on behalf of the board, also has a duty to protect residents and designated common areas of the property. Good communication with the property manager about ongoing maintenance and ways to reduce risks for pests can benefit residents and property values.
If the association contracts with a company for pest control, rely on the company’s expertise should there be a problem with mosquitos. The pest control company and your property manager can make routine inspections and take actions to change conditions which might attract mosquitos.
While it is not in your association’s scope of responsibilities to advise residents about the transmission of a disease, the association does not have to disregard Zika completely. If there is a case in the area, the association should disclose this to the homeowners. Even if there is not a case, let inquiring homeowners know about what the association is doing as a general maintenance issue. Do not ignore the issue completely and be mindful if something in your community arises to increase your need for diligence.
Beyond that, however, your HOA board should let the appropriate officials manage and resolve our public health threats.