New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

Subscribe for Daily Updates!
Disclosure of Covid 19 case in building?Mar 20, 2020

What can the board do if it finds out that a resident has tested positive for Coronavirus? Can they tell the other residents that someone in the building tested positive? Does HIPAA or the NYC civil rights law prevent the Board from identifying the person?

Join the Conversation Comments (3)
Disclosure of Covid 19 case in building? - Steven424 Mar 20, 2020

As a lay person (I am not an attorney) who recognizes this is a minefield waiting for someone to step in the wrong place, my first and only piece of advice is to ask your board's attorney.

Good luck.

Thank you for rating!

You have already rated this page, you can only rate it once!

Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!

Introduce yourself to other members of Board Talk! Login below or register here.

Board Talk members who registered prior to March 9th, 2016 will need to reset their password.

Register

Forgot your password? Click here

> Join the conversation Comments (1)
Covid 19 - Marty Mar 20, 2020

I agree with Steven - speak to your attorney before doing anything.

We just had a staff member tested for corona. He was sent home because he had a fever. We think it's the flu because some family members recently had the flu and he only had a fever, but not the cough and shortness of breath associated with corona. But, we took no chances and sent him home and told him to see his doctor immediately.

We worried about privacy issues, but our attorney said we did have the right to ask him if he was tested specifically for corona. His test returns will come back within the week. We informed our shareholders of what happened.

I'm not sure if you have the right to identify the s/h who tested positive, but I think the Board must err on the side of caution and act ethically to inform all s/h that someone has tested positive.

If the s/h were not informed, imagine the anger that would ensue once word got out (and it WOULD eventually get out) that the Board withheld info that a s/h had tested positive for corona. That Board would be finished since their credibility would be gone. People are very scared right now. The Board needs to provide as much info as possible in order to allay everyone's fears and take control of the situation.

I'm sure there are guidelines of how to protect the other s/h (self-isolation) and to clean the building properly in these situations. The attorney can hopefully help with that, but don't be surprised if there are no specifics since this such a brand new situation for everyone.

Be honest and communicate often and provide updates. We're all figuring this out as we go along.

Thank you for rating!

You have already rated this page, you can only rate it once!

Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!

Introduce yourself to other members of Board Talk! Login below or register here.

Board Talk members who registered prior to March 9th, 2016 will need to reset their password.

Register

Forgot your password? Click here

> Join the conversation
COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR COOP/CONDO BOARDS - Adam J. Berkey Mar 25, 2020

Good morning:

Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP represents many cooperative and condominium boards throughout the City. Please see below for our recent guidance on COVID-19 related issues for coop and condo Boards and managing agents (collectively, the “Landlord” or “Landlords”).

The full HTML is available at the URL: https://www.gdblaw.com/QUESTIONS-and-ANSWERS-Coop-Condo-COVID

Q: What are the Landlord’s legal obligations to protect buildings against COVID-19?

A: In general, an owner of a multiple dwelling has a duty to maintain the premises in good repair and in a reasonably safe condition. This standard of care may well be applied to the corona virus. Landlords should follow the guidelines from the CDC and local authorities which are outlined in our prior memo to limit the risk of potential claims.

For further guidance please visit the CDC and NYC online guides listed below, for which links are available on our website: https://www.gdblaw.com/QUESTIONS-and-ANSWERS-Coop-Condo-COVID

- CDC – Home Cleaning and Disinfection
- NYC Department of Health Coronavirus Disease General Disinfection Guidance for Commercial or Residential Buildings, dated March 5, 2020
(the “NYC Guidance”)

Q: What about Annual Meetings? Are In-Person Meetings Required? May it be postponed and/or held by telecommunication or other electronic means?

A: Annual meetings may be delayed, despite any fixed date in the by-laws for a meeting. The Board may either amend the by-laws, or decide to notify shareholders that the meeting will be delayed due to current health-related conditions. If a meeting is not held within 13 months of the previous annual meeting, a shareholder may petition a court to order a meeting. Such proceeding would take many months before an order was obtained, given the current status of the court system, so it is an unlikely remedy to be followed.

The Business Corporation Law allows an annual meeting to be held by reasonable means, which may include audio webcast or other broadcast of the meeting and voting may be conducted electronically via internet voting.

Each building’s by-laws should be reviewed to determine the best method for postponing the annual meeting or holding it via electronic means.

Q: What about Board meetings?

A: Boards are not required to hold in-person meetings. The Business Corporation Law, Section 708(c), allows Board meetings to be held by conference telephone, provided that Board members may participate by means of a conference telephone or similar communications equipment allowing all persons participating in the meeting to hear each other at the same time.

Q: Should the Landlord close all gym facilities?

A: Recently, Governor Cuomo announced an Executive Order that requires all gyms to be closed until further notice. The Executive Order did not distinguish between public or private gyms, or gyms of a particular size, so the Order should be read as applying to all gyms of all sizes. The Executive Order reads, in relevant part: "Any gym, fitness centers or classes, and movie theaters shall also cease operation effective at 8 pm on March 16, 2020 until further notice."

Q: What should the Landlord do in the event there is a suspected infected individual in the building?

A: If the Landlord or a resident has a reason to believe that a resident has contracted COVID-19 or is exhibiting symptoms of the virus, we recommend that the Landlord take the following precautions:
- Keep the names of suspected infected individuals confidential from other residents until consent to release the information to them is obtained.
- Obtain written consent from the suspected individual to share their status with the other residents of the building.
- Direct the building staff when interaction with the suspected individual is required to follow the recommended protocols as described in the NYC Guide, i.e. request the suspected individual to exit the room, wear a protective face mask and properly sanitize after the visit.
- Advise all infected or quarantined persons that deliveries will be left outside the apartment door, that the delivery (or staff) person will ring the doorbell to advise of the delivery and will depart immediately without interacting with such person.

Q: What should the Landlord do in the event there is an infected individual in the building?

A: In addition to the above, regulations require that the Landlord notify the authorities of a confirmed case.

Landlords should alert all residents that there may be a confirmed case in the building, and remind them to follow the health guidelines. Landlords should explain the measures that are being taken to prevent its spread (e.g., the person is following all governmental protocols for quarantine). Personal privacy considerations must be taken into account, so Landlords should not name the infected individual or identify that person’s specific location, without obtaining that person’s written consent.

The notice to residents should specify that the unnamed resident is self-quarantining, or that he or she is under governmental order not to leave the apartment, and that safe procedures are in place for ministerial tasks such as disposing of trash or receiving mail.

If other building residents inquire who the infected resident is, to protect the resident’s right to privacy and to remove fear that such person might be publicly ridiculed or shamed, Landlords should not disclose the infected person’s name or apartment, without obtaining that person's written consent.

If a Landlord learns that the infected person is not following protocol, then appropriate authorities, like the New York State Department of Health and the CDC, should be contacted immediately.

10 NYCRR 2.12 creates an obligation to report a communicable disease to a city, country or district health officer when no physician is in attendance. When there is a physician in attendance the medical professional is required to report the disease by CDC and the Health Department.

Q: Who may be deemed “Essential Employees” for buildings to maintain resident services?

New York State’s guide for their employees, during their COVID-19 containment efforts, states that essential employees shall include “Maintenance, Safety & Security, Fire Safety, Capital Services, Emergency Management, Food Service Workers, Housekeeping staff, Cooks and Cleaning Staff.” We can argue that the same rules should apply for building employees.
The Center for Disease Control (the “CDC”) defines essential business functions, jobs, or roles as those which are required to maintain business operations. So again, building employees needed to maintain operations should be essential.

The NYS Dept. of Health advises that essential employees are those which the building deems essential for the performance of services in that individual building. Therefore, doormen, porters and supers may be “essential employees.”

Case law regarding the warranty of habitability also states that maintenance and janitorial persons perform essential functions for the building. Park W. Mgmt. Corp. v. Mitchell, 47 N.Y.2d 316, 329, 391 N.E.2d 1288, 1295 (1979).

For all of the above reasons, we believe that maintenance, security and cleanliness are considered essential functions to be coordinated for the health and safety of a building and its residents, and those performing these functions would be considered “essential employees.”

Q: What should a Landlord do if a member of the building staff tests positive for COVID-19?

A: We recommend that the Landlord should send home all staff members who worked closely with that infected individual for a 14-day period to ensure that the infection does not spread and ask that the infected staff member identify all individuals who worked in close proximity (three to six feet) with him or her in the previous 14 days, to ensure that all potentially infected staff are sent home. In the event this results in a building having an insufficient number of available staff, Landlords may be required to find temporary staff.

Landlords should also undertake a deep cleaning of the affected workspaces and common spaces. Lastly and importantly, the Landlord should advise all residents that a staff member has tested positive and the building is taking all necessary steps and precautions to minimize risk to its residents.

Q: What is the Board’s obligation to protect its staff?

A: The Board has an affirmative obligation to protect its staff as set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines (“OSHA”) and provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards which may cause death and harm.

The following protocols are recommended by OSHA:
- Landlords should promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing staff and visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Landlords should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as [note – we are talking about doormen and porters] flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among staff and others because state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies.
- Landlords should introduce options for conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce, including cross-training workers across different jobs in order to continue operations or deliver surge services.
- Require staff to stay home if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Encourage staff when entering individual homes to inquire with residents if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and if they have traveled to high-risk areas. If the resident answers yes to either of these questions, and the visit may be postponed, it is encouraged that the staff postpone the visit. If that is impossible, the resident should remain in a different room during the visit with the door closed, if possible, wear a face mask, and the employees should immediately wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use an approved alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Implement a course of action for prompt identification and isolation of infected individuals.
- Ensure there are hand sanitizers, soap and sanitized towels readily available for all staff.
- Additionally, the Board may issue a questionnaire to staff which is compliant with ADA guidelines (link on website).

For further guidance please visit the OSHA online guide: OSHA Guidelines for Employers (link on website).

For further guidance please visit the following online guides:
CDC – Guidelines for Employers (link on website)
EEOC -Guidelines (link on website)

Q: Can staff members refuse to work with residents?

A: Staff members may refuse to take on an assignment which is considered to be an unsafe work assignment. However, if another staff member deems the situation safe, has taken the necessary steps to protect against COVID-19 and the Landlord provides the staff member with proper gloves and equipment, then that staff member may perform the assignment. In this situation, we would recommend erring on the side of caution and request that another staff member who is comfortable with the assignment perform the task.

Q: Is revealing the identity of a suspected or infected individual a violation of the ADA?

A: While Boards may have to engage in a balancing act of protecting its residents from infection and the privacy rights of suspected or infected individuals, the ADA might come into play. According to the Americans with Disability Act (the “ADA”), generally the flu and other conditions which are lasting less than six (6) months are not considered a disability. (42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)) However, complications arising from COVID-19 may lead to a disability covered under the ADA. We would recommend that because Boards must maintain their fiduciary duty to their shareholders as well as individuals’ right to privacy (as medical records are confidential information) to refrain from sharing the status of a suspected or infected individual to other residents and staff; however, the Board could and should share the information with New York State Department of Health and the CDC.

Q: Is revealing the identity of a suspected or infected staff member a violation of the ADA?

A: According to the ADA, generally the flu and other conditions which are lasting less than six (6) months are not considered a disability also applies to employees (29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)) and as mentioned in the above, complications arising from COVID-19 may lead to a disability covered under the ADA and employment law. Due to the unknown risks and complications related to COVID-19, we recommend the Building err on the side of caution and refrain from disclosing this confidential medical information to a limited group, including: Supervisors (to implement necessary work restrictions and accommodations), first-aid and safety personnel (if the disability requires emergency treatment), workers' compensation state offices and insurance carriers, government officials investigating ADA compliance. Employers should refrain from sharing this information with co-workers and residents.

Q: Is sharing the status of a suspected or infected individual a violation under HIPAA?

A: HIPAA is short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It provides patients’ security provisions and data privacy, in order to keep patients’ medical information safe. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HIPAA’s privacy act only applies to covered entities and business associates of covered entities. Landlords are not considered such.

We hope the above is helpful for you. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions concerning the above guidance (ajb@gdblaw.com).


Thank you for rating!

You have already rated this page, you can only rate it once!

Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!

Introduce yourself to other members of Board Talk! Login below or register here.

Board Talk members who registered prior to March 9th, 2016 will need to reset their password.

Register

Forgot your password? Click here

> Join the conversation
Need to warn - Ringaleavio Apr 02, 2020

1. If someone is unable, i.e. on a ventilator, to sign permission to disclose COVID to neighbors they may have had contact with in an apartment building isn't there a duty to warn on the part of a condo board or management company, so that those exposed neighbors can be on watch or quarantine? What happened to duty to warn known exposure?


Thank you for rating!

You have already rated this page, you can only rate it once!

Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!

Introduce yourself to other members of Board Talk! Login below or register here.

Board Talk members who registered prior to March 9th, 2016 will need to reset their password.

Register

Forgot your password? Click here

> Join the conversation Comments (1)
Covid 19 - Marty Apr 02, 2020

Ringaleavio (reminds me of my yute in Canarsie!),

I mentioned earlier when I responded in this thread that "I think the Board must err on the side of caution and act ethically to inform all s/h that someone has tested positive. But, that's just my opinion and I'm not an attorney.

But, as Steven has said, you should check with the Board's attorney before taking any action because everyone's rights must be considered.

Thank you for rating!

You have already rated this page, you can only rate it once!

Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!

Introduce yourself to other members of Board Talk! Login below or register here.

Board Talk members who registered prior to March 9th, 2016 will need to reset their password.

Register

Forgot your password? Click here

> Join the conversation Comments (1)
Thanks Marty - Ringaleavio Apr 03, 2020

My yute was in Queens, but great game anywhere.

Thank you for rating!

You have already rated this page, you can only rate it once!

Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!

Introduce yourself to other members of Board Talk! Login below or register here.

Board Talk members who registered prior to March 9th, 2016 will need to reset their password.

Register

Forgot your password? Click here

> Join the conversation

Introduce yourself to other members of Board Talk! Log in below or register here.

Board Talk members who registered prior to March 9th, 2016 will need to reset their password.

Introduce yourself to other members of Board Talk! Login below or register here.
Board Talk members who registered prior to March 9th, 2016 will need to reset their password.

Ask the Experts

learn more

Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?