HOA Guest Policies - In the Wake of COVID and Approaching the Holidays
The rapidly approaching holiday season is something many are looking forward to after a long year of quarantine and pandemic induced social isolation, visiting family might be a much-needed respite... but what about your community's guest restrictions? For many in community associations, the guest policy in place can be very restrictive and for good reason. As a board member you must consider the legal flexibility of your guest policy and how exactly you want to enforce it.
Post-COVID and Neighborhood Guests
This year, everyone is on edge about gatherings. While we need the holidays to lift our spirits, we are also worried about visitors, travel, and neighborhood order. Should your guest rules become more restrictive this year, or less? In reality, it's time to take a whole new look at HOA guest policies.
What are your biggest concerns? Normally, HOAs during the holidays worry most about parking, neighborhood appearance, and non-disruptive celebrations - not necessarily in that order. These concerns haven't changed and your existing policies are likely sufficient to cover them. In addition, we also want to prevent the neighborhood from becoming a holiday contagion point. This is where new policies must come into play, both enable a good holiday and keep families safe from each other.
Parking and Number of Guests
The traditional policies usually relate to number of guests and - most importantly - how many car spaces they take up on the street. This year, maintain your parking management policies. Have residents register their guests, get them parking stickers, or use a public lot for overflow cars. Remember to remind your guests to prioritize near-home parking spaces for any handicapped visitors.
Ask Residents to Register Guests
In fact, a traditionally parking-only policy is also a great way to approach guest control and management this year. By asking your residents to pre-register their guests, including number of vehicles and temporary home occupants, you can keep tabs and have a chance to help residents make their own arrangements.
That said, you may also want to rethink policies focused primarily on limiting holiday guests. Ensure that each resident has room within the rules to have one or two cars of relatives arrive. Forgive residents who have "used up" their allotted guest time and help residents make the necessary arrangements to welcome family. We all need companionship this year.
Occupancy and Duration of Stay
Most states have reasonable occupancy laws requiring residents to number themselves two per bedroom. HOAs are, therefore, usually free to also enforce this rule, but we stop worrying about it for a few weeks during the holidays. This is because occupancy and guests are not quite the same thing. For guests who stay for less than a month, it should not be necessary to police the number of guests -as long as the street is not over-parked and conduct is orderly. But let your residents know that after New-Year's, any guests who want to stay need to meet occupancy requirements and possibly sign a lease.
Preventing a Contagion Event
After addressing your current policies, consider some reasonable policies to protect residents and guests from each other. While each family is responsible for how they choose to manage in-family COVID safety, you can create policies that prevent celebrating families from physically mingling.
The Yard Line Policy
The best way to do this that we have considered is the yard-line policy. In many neighborhoods, residents will trade cookies and mingle together when outdoors as part of the celebration. This year, that can't happen. Residents can still decorate and wave to each other across the yard, but suggest strongly that no resident (or their guests) cross the property yard lines. Encourage your residents to include property line markers as part of their festive decorations, and to maintain that distance as a way to prevent cross-family immunity incidents.
For residents and guests that want to go Christmas Caroling through the neighborhood - a delightful tradition in some areas and families - they can do so. But this year it needs to be curbside only. No caroling on porches for cocoa or demanding figgy pudding for the 2020 holiday season. But singing at a distance with only family members is actually still COVID-safe, as long as non-relatives keep a safe distance from each other.
As we head into Fall, your HOA should be preparing for the quickly approaching holiday season. Residents will want to bring in guests and you will need to streamline that process. You hold a combination responsibility to maintain neighborhood order, keep everyone safe, and help your residents bounce back from a truly challenging year. Contact us for more HOA insights.