Whether your community chooses to keep its common areas open or closed is a matter of discretion and all HOA / Condo boards in South Carolina must use their best business judgment to make that determination.
Over the past two days South Carolina has reopened some retail establishments, beaches, and state parks. Although the State has not seen a significant downward trend in coronavirus cases for 14 days (as the White House recommended) Governor McMaster was comfortable reopening, relying instead on professional opinions in South Carolina and the fact that people seem to be complying with social distancing. A copy of the Governor’s most recent order is here.
Governor Henry McMaster announced that the following retail stores could reopen, subject to all the requirements for limiting the number of customers already in effect in other retail establishments (at 20% capacity or five people per 1,000 square feet):
(a) Furniture and home-furnishings stores
(b) Clothing, shoe, and clothing-accessory stores
(c) Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
(d) Department stores
(e) Sporting goods stores
(f) Book, craft, and music stores
(g) Flea markets
(h) Florists and flower stores
Public beaches, piers, docks, and wharfs in South Carolina have the Governor’s approval to reopen as of noon on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Governor McMaster’s latest order allows local leaders to use their discretion about reopening. The result so far has been a checkered sort of opening, with some beaches opening and others staying closed. For example, Myrtle Beach is remaining closed, while North Myrtle Beach is reopening. Social distancing is still in effect.
State parks also plan to reopen on May 1, 2020. While that may change, most rivers, lakes, beaches, and trails that are state parks will reopen, while group facilities like picnic shelters will remain closed. In addition, state parks will only allow a limited number of visitors depending on the state park. State parks will also honor existing camping and cabin reservations already scheduled for May 1 or after.
So what should your HOA / Condo do?
After sifting through recent executive orders and news stories about reopening in South Carolina, the first question most people living in HOAs and condos have is how the reopenings might impact the status of their own common areas.
First, no two communities are exactly the same. Homeowners, managers, and boards of directors should keep that in mind. What is the right answer in an active 55+ community may be different from a high rise condominium, which may also be different from a large single family community.
Second, the decision about opening/closing/reopening common areas is a matter of best judgment for the board of directors. The board of directors was elected by the members to make decisions such as this.
Third, the CDC continues to recommend closures and limiting the opportunity for contact with other people. It would be difficult to argue with a board that decides to heed the CDC’s advice.
So long as a board’s decision is made in good faith, with the care an ordinarily prudent person would exercise, and with the reasonable belief that it is in the best interest of the community, then it is unlikely that a person challenging the decision could prevail and the board would be on good ground for its decision.
We are closely monitoring events as they occur and will update this and other items that may be of interest to community associations and those who live in and around them.
Law Firm Carolinas attorneys are licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. For specific questions about your community, reach out to one of our community association attorneys.