COVID 19 is creating challenges for everyone but if you are a resident in a condominium the risks can be harder to avoid than for people living in houses. Living in an apartment block means that you must use shared spaces in order to get to and from your home and to carry out daily activities such as the disposal of garbage. With so many Alberta residents living in apartments and condominiums across the province, this creates a potential hazard for thousands of inhabitants.
One risk comes from exposure to neighbours and co residents because the hallways, which can be narrow , the shared entrances to the building, the garbage disposal area and particularly the elevator, often makes keeping to the 2 metre distance very difficult. How do you avoid using the elevator if you live on a high floor? How can you be sure that when you are already in the elevator, you won’t be crowded by other people? The answer is that you can’t. Your only option is to avoid the elevator as much as possible and be cautious ensuring that you wearing some sort of face protection such as a mask or even a scarf. Most people are mindful of the risks of being in close proximity but sadly not everyone has heeded the warnings, risking their health and that of the people around them. However possibly the greater hazard is invisible and comes from the risk of touching surfaces that may be harbouring the virus.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Covid 19 remains active on surfaces. Research has not been conclusive but studies suggest this may be for few hours or up to several days, depending upon local conditions such as humidity or temperature as well as the material of the surface. This means that the safest option is to assume that all surfaces may be infected and to avoid touching anything with your bare hands. Covid 19 cannot be transmitted through the skin but the danger comes from touching your face, thus enabling the virus to enter your body. Most condominium corporations have been fast to act. Non essential public spaces such as the pool, the party room or the gym have been closed down for the duration. In addition many property management firms have switched their focus from general maintenance to a sanitizing program. A responsible condiminum corporation will be disinfecting walk ways and surfaces, and we hope, paying extra attention to surfaces such as door handles and lift buttons. Cleaning staff should be carrying this out several times a day to ensure that the area is as safe as possible. Condominium owners should also be aware of the health of their residents. Many corporations are already keeping in touch via email and many do have a task force in place to support people who do get the virus with shopping and vital medication and groceries.
The Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations have issued guidelines and advice for condominium corporations on how to most safely manage the Covid 19 crisis without causing further disruption and increasing alarm to their residents. This includes guidelines on how to manage essential maintenance tasks as well as carefully worded letters to residents who may not be taking the pandemic seriously enough.
The below temporary amendments have been released by Service Alberta regarding the Condominium Property Act for 90 days following March 17, 2020
MINISTERIAL ORDER NO. SA:009/2020 15. The Condominium Property Act, RSA 2000, c C-22 is modified as follows: (1) Section 10.1 (3) is modified as follows: “The interim board holds office until a board is elected pursuant to section 29 and, for greater certainty, will continue to hold office in the event a meeting under section 29 is delayed.” (2) Section 24.1 is modified as follows to add: “(4.1) A person, other than a person who regularly resides in a unit, is not entitled to enter a unit under (3) unless expressly or impliedly invited by a person who regularly resides in the unit, if (a) any person who regularly resides in the unit is self-isolating, in quarantine, or displaying symptoms consistent the pandemic COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19; or (b) the person seeking entry is self-isolating, in quarantine, or displaying symptoms consistent with the pandemic COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19.” (3) The requirements for the developer to convene a general meeting under section 29 (1) is suspended. For clarity, this does not preclude a developer from convening a general meeting through remote means, such as videoconference, teleconference or other means. (4) The ability of an owner to convene a meeting under section 29 (2) is suspended. (5) The requirement for an annual general meeting to be held under section 30 is suspended. For clarity, this does not preclude a condominium corporation from holding an annual general meeting through remote means, such as videoconference, teleconference or other means.
(6) The requirement to convene a special general meeting under section 30.1 (2) – (4) is suspended.
18. The Condominium Property Regulation, Alberta Regulation 168/2000 is modified as follows:
(1) Section 20.1 (d) is modified to add events leading to a declaration of public health emergency under the Public Health Act as events that may delay occupancy beyond the final occupancy date for a unit, without liability for damages and without giving rise to a right of rescission by a purchaser.
(2) The 5 year time period to carry out a reserve fund study, prepare a reserve fund report, approve the reserve fund plan, and provide owners with copies of the reserve fund plan since approval of the most recent reserve fund plan under section 30 is suspended.
One thing is for sure; the Covid crisis will not last forever, here in Alberta or anywhere else across the world. However to make this happen, we have to all play our part and just stay home!