CHARLOTTE, N.C. — People living in a Charlotte condo community are upset with their Homeowners Association for keeping the pool closed this summer.
Claudine Johnson and Susan Nelson live in Chalcombe Court in SouthPark.
They said the HOA sent them this email:
“The pool will remain closed until further notice. We continue to watch the NCDHHS and Governor Cooper’s updates. As of [June 16], Mecklenburg County has had the largest number of case increases since the outbreak began recording in March. We consider all factors regarding this matter and shall not be part of endangering any of our residents’ health or safety during this pandemic.”
They said the complex sent them another email a few days later:
“North Carolina’s requirements and recommendations for public pools aim to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, but they also present substantial challenges for organizations like HOAs regarding the decision re opening a pool. The recommendations require HOA to provide monitoring of safety precautions. The pool management company does not provide that service. Thus their signs are worded to enter at your own risk. We cannot take that risk and would have to have someone to monitor all safety precautions. We will continue to follow the state DHHS announcements regarding phases of reopening and make a decision, as we have stated before, regarding whether to open our pool this season or not. We will require the signing of a waiver and temperature checks and monitoring numbers of residents in the pool and the distance between each person in the pool. Pre Scheduling of pool use will also be required. We do not have the budget for hiring such a person to monitor these requirements. Again as we have stated before, our first priority is the safety and health of our residents. We understand your disappointment and we are disappointed as well. The pool at Chalcombe Court will remain closed until further notice.”
Johnson said the pool is the only bit of happiness that they have right now.
“We just want to enjoy ourselves, even if it’s just a day or an hour of the week,” Johnson told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke. “All of the signs on the pool say, ‘Enter at your own risk.’ It explains the COVID situation. It should be up to us. We’re adults.”
“My thing is, if you’re afraid to go, you can stay at home. We’re all adults. We can clean up after ourselves,” Nelson said. “I just don’t know what our rights are as far as being able to use this pool.”
Under North Carolina law, your HOA typically has a right to decide whether to open the pool. In fact, if it doesn’t open the pool, it usually doesn’t even have to give you any of your dues back. You can sue your HOA, but probably won’t get very far. Usually, your only option is the vote: put different people on the board.
Governor Cooper just signed a law that covers HOA pools, specific to the pandemic. It says if the pool is open and you get the virus from it, the pool owner isn’t responsible (assuming the pool owner followed all of the Governor’s recommendations about things like cleaning, distancing, and the number people in the pool.) In other words, as long as your HOA follows the precautions, it doesn’t have to worry about lawsuits if someone gets the virus.
Lawyer Zac Moretz said this should encourage more HOAs to feel better about re-opening their pools.
“A [HOA] is not going to get sued unless it has been negligent. The Governor’s orders have now defined what is means not to be negligent in the community pool context -- post signage, keep all surfaces clean, and limit pool use to no more than 50% capacity. If your HOA does these things, it will be fine. This new legislation providing immunity from COVID lawsuits for community pools is a nice life preserver to put HOAs at ease in reopening, but if they are following the Governor’s guidelines, the likelihood of being sued is already like a drop in the ocean anyway,” Moretz said.
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