On January 5, 2021, all eyes will turn to Georgia voters as they determine which political party will control the U.S. Senate in two separate runoff elections. This means that, in addition to the abundance of holiday decorations, many homeowners will also pepper their yards with political signs to support their candidates. For those living in a Georgia community association, it is important to understand that your First Amendment right to free speech does not trump—no pun intended—the association’s right to impose reasonable restrictions on political signs.
As everyone knows by now, COVID-19 dramatically impacted (and continues to impact) day-to-day business for community associations. Part of the initial fallout was a moratorium on foreclosure and eviction proceedings. Although these are handled at the county level throughout Georgia, the Statewide Judicial Emergency-which has been extended numerous times-temporarily put things on hold for every jurisdiction. It was not until the end of this summer, however, that some restrictions were lifted and counties could decide to resume with foreclosures and/or evictions.
Change to the Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act Restricts Leasing Amendments Beginning in 2021
Effective on January 1, 2021, the Georgia Property Owners' Association Act ("POA") will add language to O.C.G.A. § 44-3-226(a) that restricts prospective leasing amendments for community associations submitted to the POA. The change, however, will not impact condominium associations, and it will not initially impact common law community associations (i.e. community associations that are not submitted to the POA) unless and until they subsequently submit to the POA and amend their covenants to restrict leasing.
On July 29, 2020, Governor Kemp signed House Bill 1070, which adds a subsection (c) to the insurance coverage provision in the Georgia Condominium Act, O.C.G.A. § 44-3-107.
Senate Bill 359 has become law. We encourage all community associations to place signage at their entrances, amenities and/or building consistent with the language provided for in the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act.
COVID-19 has certainly presented a number of challenges for community associations over the past few months. Regardless of the specific issues coming up, they have no other choice but to continue operating as best and as safely as possible. One way to do this is for boards and property managers to find alternative ways to conduct business and/or present information without in-person meetings.
On June 26, 2020, the Georgia Legislature passed SB 359, which is titled the "Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act." If signed into law by Governor Kemp, SB 359 will provide immunity from liability claims regarding COVID-19 for community associations and other specified entities.
On May 8, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") published additional considerations for public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds during COVID-19. Although most community association pools are not "public" in the traditional sense, the CDC specifically mentioned that the additional considerations were applicable to "public aquatic venues" operated and managed by community associations.
It appears that COVID-19 will unfortunately be hanging around this summer. As such, many boards are now facing the difficult decision of whether to open amenities, especially the community pool.
As we continue to face unprecedented challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that community associations do their part to mitigate potential risks. One way that boards and property managers can do this is by making a distinction between essential and nonessential common areas and amenities. Temporarily closing and/or limiting access to the nonessential parts of a building or community may help slow the spread of this invisible threat.