Condo/Co-op Projects and Alterations: Protecting Residents from Illness and Protecting Boards from Potential Liability
As Covid-19 safety procedures and regulations remain in effect, condominium and cooperative boards and their building managers would be wise to take measures to protect building residents (and contractors) from illness and insulate boards and owners from potential liability.
On June 8, 2020 non-essential construction projects in NYC were approved to resume after a nearly three-month Covid-19 shutdown. Since then, many and condo/co-op boards and individual owners and residents have taken the opportunity to conduct capital improvement projects and apartment renovations.
Like other industries and businesses throughout NYS, construction contractors are required to develop and implement a Covid-19 safety plan. This plan must outline how the contractor will prevent the spread of Covid-19 at its offices and worksites. Templates and guidance on formulating a safety plan can be found on the New York State Dept. of Health website, HERE.
Similarly, condo and co-op boards should develop safety plans for the conduct of construction projects at the building, including both capital improvement projects and individual apartment renovations. A board’s plan and requirements should be a condition on approving any work at the building. At a minimum the safety plan should require appropriate social distancing of workers (taking into consideration if the work is indoors or outdoors), limitation on contact with building residents, health screening of workers prior to accessing the building/work site, appropriate cleaning materials and personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks.
Boards and managers should also consider incorporating waiver and indemnification language into their building construction contracts, and require the same from contractors performing work within apartments on behalf of cooperative shareholders, condominium unit owners, and individual tenants. Contracts for building projects should be reviewed by counsel to ensure that appropriate language indemnifying the board is included.
When approving an individual shareholder or unit owner’s renovation application, the Board should condition such approval on the contractor providing a waiver absolving the board and management from liability for a Covid-19 claim arising from work within an apartment. The shareholder or apartment owner should indemnify the board and management from any such claims.
Condo and co-op boards and their managers would be wise to consult the building’s attorneys to obtain appropriate waivers and indemnification agreements before approving construction and alteration projects.
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