Can a Boston condominium board require condo owners and building residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19 to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the other residents?
A. A condominium board of directors is to provide for the operation, care, upkeep, maintenance, replacement, and improvement of the common elements. There is no basis in the Condominium that extends the authority of a condominium board to require an owner or resident to subject themselves to medical treatment or vaccines to access and live in a condominium in the association where they own or lease a residence.
Can Boston Condo Board Require Vendors/Contractors have Vaccinations?
When Boston condo boards are hiring contractors, they can certainly give preference in the selection process to companies that require vaccinations for their employees. Boards could also make vaccination a requirement for beginning or resuming work for which a contract has already been negotiated, as long as the contract doesn’t prohibit it. For example, you could tell your landscaper or the company you’ve retained to repair your roof that workers must provide proof of vaccination before coming on site.
WHAT CAN ASSOCIATIONS DO?
While there is no question that it is in everyone’s interests for owners to be vaccinated, we don’t think boards can or should impose that requirement. There are other steps they can take to help protect their communities, however.
- Provide information about the need for and benefits of vaccination. Boards shouldn’t provide direct advice, but they can disseminate information from public health agencies and publish links to that information on their Web sites, in e-mail messages and in newsletters.
- Facilitate the vaccination process. Some associations for years have arranged for local pharmacies or other health providers to offer flu vaccines in their communities as a convenience for residents – a convenience older residents, in particular, have welcomed. Your board might want to consider offering the COVID vaccine on a similar basis when it becomes widely available, but with some important caveats. Experience with the vaccine is still limited and we don’t know much about its long-term effects. So if vaccines are going to be administered in the community, you want to limit the association’s liability risks.
- Check with the association’s insurer first to discuss the plan, to verify coverage and to identify any potential insurance requirements or concerns.
- Work with a third party health provider willing to indemnify the association.
- Require owners to sign liability waivers agreeing not to hold the association responsible if they suffer adverse reactions to the vaccine.
- Offer vaccines to residents only. Even a tiny bending of a “residents only” restriction risks classifying the community as a public facility, subject to broad accessibility requirements mandated by state and federal laws.
- Be proactive. Start thinking about vaccine-related policies and procedures (if any) that you may want to consider in the future, but don’t make any policy decisions now. The current advice about vaccination requirements (best not to adopt them) may change; liability risks and other concerns may ease or become magnified. Our advice to association clients: Gather information, monitor advisories and directives from local, state and federal health authorities, pay close attention to the concerns of your residents and the needs of your community, and (you know I’m going to say this), get legal advice before adopting any COVID-related policies.
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