In a prior blog post (https://ddcrwlaw.com/eviction-summary-process-cases-postponed-during-covid-19-pandemic/) we provided information for property manager and landlords attempting to enforce rent and other lease obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In this blog, we have provided some practical information for landlords and property managers to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at their property.  We have also included tips on what landlords can do if they suspect or learn of a COVID-19 diagnosis in their community.

Use Local Health Departments/Boards of Health for Guidance:

If you learn a resident has been diagnosed with or shows signs of COVID-19, your first step should be to refer to your company’s policies on infectious diseases (to the extent your company has such plans or guidance in place).  If your company does not have a plan in place, you should contact your local health department/board of health to seek guidance regarding appropriate measures to take to protect your residents and staff.  When speaking with local authorities, always remember that disclosure of an individual’s health information must be done in compliance with privacy laws, and the information you provide should not identify the name or location of the individual in question, without his or her permission.  Until you have received guidance from local authorities you should instruct maintenance staff not to enter the unit of an individual who has or is suspected of having COVID-19.  Before you enter, you should obtain specific instructions from local health officials on how to do so safely and in a way that does not spread infection or put your employees at risk.    

Communicating with Tenants:

Remember, your residents are under no obligation to inform you of their own COVID-19 diagnosis.  However, you may ask your residents to consider voluntarily notifying management in the event they do test positive so that appropriate preventative measures can be taken.  Landlords are under no obligation to inform tenants when they learn of a community member being diagnosed with COVID-19.  Some landlords may find it beneficial to announce the information to residents so others at the property can take appropriate measures to protect themselves.  If you do choose to notify tenants, you must do so in a way that does not identify the individual in question (by name or location) and you must otherwise comply with all applicable privacy laws.  In making such an announcement, it would be beneficial to inform tenants that you have already been in contact with local agencies and are following their advice on how to respond to the potential threat.  Your communication should also provide them with basic instructions on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and direct them to the local health department for further information. 

Maintenance During the Pandemic:

Even where there are no confirmed cases, properties should take care to engage in thorough maintenance to reduce the potential for infection to spread.  The CDC recommends taking precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including regularly disinfecting common touchpoints such as doorknobs, tables, desks and handrails. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a list of effective disinfectant products to reference on its website. Specific attention should be made to common entry points and exits such as elevators and stairwells, and any common areas such as clubhouses, shared work spaces, mail collection areas, and management offices.  In addition, closing and providing limited access to common areas and amenity spaces should be considered.  If you become aware of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 at your property, it may make sense to consider outsourcing maintenance tasks to licensed contractors that have the necessary safety apparatus, cleaning products and familiarity with health regulations.

If you have questions or would like to discuss eviction/summary process matters, please contact Attorney Steven D. Weil or Attorney Andrew M. Kepple, our landlord/tenant attorneys at 508-541-3000.

This blog is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice. All those who read this blog should seek the advice of a professional before taking action based upon any information provided herein.

© 2020 Doherty, Dugan, Cannon, Raymond & Weil, P.C.

Article by Attorney Michael P. Doherty

Attorney Michael P. Doherty represents organizations and individuals in business, succession planning and litigation matters, and also assists clients with estate planning, wills and trusts.

124 Grove Street, Suite 220
Franklin, MA 02038

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TEL: 508-541-3000
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mpd@ddcrwlaw.com