California homeowners associations started reopening community gyms when the State of California began easing restrictions imposed by the initial COVID-19 stay-home orders from March 2020 according to stages of a reopening roadmap. Thereafter, COVID-19 cases across the state began to spike, causing the state to issue renewed restrictions as set forth in the July 13, 2020 Statewide Public Health Officer Order (“Order”). These renewed restrictions forced HOAs in counties on the Monitoring List, including Orange, San Diego, Placer & Santa Cruz counties, to close previously-reopened gyms and fitness centers unless they could safely operate outdoors.
Due to reduced cases and otherwise meeting the requirements for slowing the spread of COVID-19, Orange, San Diego, Placer and Santa Cruz counties were recently removed from the state’s Monitoring List. However, the removal does not mean that community gyms and fitness centers may reopen at this time. This is because Section 3 of the Order provides that counties placed on the Monitoring List must close indoor gym and fitness center operations, but does not provide for the reopening of those indoor operations once a county is removed from the Monitoring List. For that to happen, the state must modify the Order and authorize the re-opening of indoor fitness facilities. Applicable county orders must also be similarly updated.
For now, the state’s COVID-19 website clearly states, “[c]ounties on, or recently removed from, the County Monitoring List must close indoor operations for the following business sectors, events, and activities . . . Gyms and fitness centers . . .” This means that outdoor fitness facilities are the only option for HOAs in counties on or recently removed from the Monitoring List. However, caution should be exercised (no pun intended) before moving community gyms outside as the equipment could easily be stolen, damaged due to exposure from the elements, cause costly damage to the HOA common area while being moved, or injure workers or volunteers whom are not otherwise qualified to move heavy equipment. Moreover, gym equipment left outside and unattended could increase the HOA’s liability exposure due to, for example, those improperly using it for play or climbing.
|While this state of events may be disappointing for homeowners, continued reduction of COVID-19 cases across the state should encourage state officials to reopen indoor fitness facilities when reopening can be accomplished safely. Homeowners associations are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel before reopening their fitness facilities to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.
-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Carrie N. Heieck, Esq.