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Modified Executive Order Allows Community Associations to Re-Open Gyms and Community Rooms During Phase 1 But Strict Rules Apply

On Thursday May 14, 2020, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-122 permitting Broward County to participate in the Phase 1 reopening identified in Executive Order 20-112, Executive Order 20-120, and any future orders pertaining to Phase 1 or the phased reopening of Florida.

As the first step in what promises to be a long and arduous process, Phase 1 aims to safely guide residents into the “new normal” of this surreal reality. Community associations, and most importantly the officials who run them, must continue to coordinate operations in adherence with local municipal regulations and Broward County’s guidelines concerning reopening of additional recreational amenities such a fitness centers, community rooms and additional amenities.

The key provisions of Broward County Emergency Order 20-122, Section 8 Community Rooms, Fitness Centers, and Gyms in Housing Development stipulates as follows:
• Golf courses and other recreational amenities permitted to operate may continue to operate, subject to the CDC Guidelines and the requirements of Emergency Order 20-08.
• Community rooms, fitness centers, and gyms, to the extent such amenities are located within multi-family housing developments or community associations, but excluding standalone commercial facilities, may operate provided all such operations are consistent with the following guidelines:
• No community room, fitness center, or gym is required to be opened if the housing development does not wish to do so or believes it cannot do so safely and in full compliance with the requirements of this Emergency Order; any decision by a particular housing development is also subject to any applicable internal rules or regulations of that entity.

Capacity Requirements.
• 1. Maximum 50% occupancy. Social distancing requirements do not apply to members of the same household.
• 2. Community rooms, fitness centers, and gyms shall be limited to residents of the housing development only. No guests shall be allowed.
• 3. Exercise machines, equipment and tables must be rearranged and/or closed for use to ensure at least 6 feet of distance between patrons using such machines, equipment, or tables. Social distancing guidelines provided by the CDC shall be adhered to at all times.
• 4. No gatherings or multi-player games (e.g., mahjong, poker, etc.) are permitted in the community rooms between persons who do not reside in the same household.

Sanitation and Safety Requirements.
• 1. Before reopening, the community room, fitness center, or gym (as applicable) must be thoroughly deep cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized. After opening, community rooms, fitness centers, and gyms must be deep cleaned daily.
• 2. Housing developments shall provide disinfecting wipes, and residents shall be required to wipe down each machine they used after each use.
• 3. Hand sanitizer shall be available at the facility. Patrons must be informed that they must sanitize their hands when entering the gym and prior to utilizing each piece of equipment.

Gym and Fitness Center Amenities.
• 1. Hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, and shower facilities shall remain closed.

While these orders are meant to restore some sense of normalcy, and provide people with outlets for exercise and activity, for many community associations, re-opening may not prove to be feasible as some associations may not be equipped to be able to comply with the CDC requirements and guidelines. Associations must recognize that there is potential liability if they reopen and cannot comply with CDC guidelines and even if they do comply, there could still be liability issues if there is an outbreak in the building as a result. This will be a difficult balancing act as associations could also face challenges from owners anxious to use amenities.

Many associations do not have the staff necessary to monitor and ensure compliance with social distancing requirements or have the necessary funds in reserve to budget or equipment needed for daily deep. This could likely result in owners being impacted with increased association dues to cover the increased costs. Under these cases, reopening of amenities may prove to be an undue burden on many associations currently struggling to maintain operations during this next phase of the pandemic.

Eisinger Law is a multi-practice Florida law firm focused on community association law, real estate law, developer representation, civil/commercial litigation, insurance law, estate planning and probate. For more information, visit eisingerlaw.com or call 954-894-8000.