Condo Smarts: Waivers aren't the whole story when it comes to pools and exercise rooms

Dear Tony: Our strata corporation has chosen to leave our pool and exercise room open to residents of our building. Many of our owners are concerned about the risks of the virus spreading and have pressured our strata council to rethink this option.

To manage the openings, the strata council is requiring anyone using the facilities to sign a waiver. However, they are not monitoring the use of the facilities other than through a voluntary sign-in sheet. The council has taken the position that the waiver has indemnified the corporation from any liability or responsibility.

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If it was this simple, wouldn’t everyone just be asked to sign a waiver? We are deeply concerned our residents are at risk, and that our council misunderstands the application of a wavier.

Vanessa R.T., Surrey

There is a significant amount of confusion in residential communities over what orders apply and how facilities are managed, amid provincial health orders, the Indoor Individual Exercise Requirements issued by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control March 31, and the increased risk of virus spread.

There is also a Civil Resolution Tribunal decision that, absent an order from an authority, a strata corporation requires a three-quarters vote at a general meeting to shut down a facility, as it would constitute a significant change in the use of common property or a common asset.

Compound this with strata corporations feeling comfortable because they have liability waivers, and we have conflicting practices across the province. What’s the best solution?

Establish best practices for your corporation to ensure the health and safety of your residents.

While strata corporations can use liability waivers, the waiver — while it may indemnify the corporation — does not discharge the strata corporation from complying with any health orders or obligations to properly staff the facilities, closely monitor and record users and their activities, maintain the best standards possible for cleaning and sanitization, and prevent gatherings or overlapping activity that could increase the risk of the virus spreading.

WorkSafe B.C. protocols also apply for any staff managing and interacting in the facilities with any of your residents. At this time, it is critical to maintain at the highest level common areas such as lobbies, elevators, hallways, waste facilities and the mechanical systems designed for routine delivery of fresh air and pressurization within multi-storey buildings.

Air systems are designed to pressurize hallways and prevent vehicle exhaust from travelling up elevator shafts, reduce the risk of smells or smoke migrating between strata units, and introduce fresh air throughout the building, but they are only effective if they are operational. Filters should be changed on a routine schedule, monthly or quarterly.

Community education often has the best effect.

Distribute posters reminding everyone to wear a mask, wash their hands, not to gather in groups and to stay isolated if they have symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19, have been in contact with someone who has tested positive or have travelled outside the country in the last 14 days.

It is too easy to become complacent when the impact of COVID-19 is not close to home. CHOA has posted a number of updated guides and publications to the website this week that identify these issues and orders. Go to choa.ca.ca and click on COVID-19 updates.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association

Covid-19 notice: As a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 CHOA staff are working remotely and our offices are temporarily closed. We understand these are challenging times for strata corporations and we are here to help. Even though CHOA advisors are working remotely we are only a phone call or email away and able to assist you with hosting meetings and notice preparation.

Tuesday Lunch & Learn Live with CHOA: CHOA is hosting a series of webinars once a week, for the next few months. Join us each Tuesday as we bring together industry experts to discuss the many issues affecting B.C.’s strata community. For more information visit our website at: https://www.choa.bc.ca/seminars.

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