NYC Landlords, Condo Boards Can Take Legal Action Against Tenants for not Social Distancing

New York City is easing social gathering restrictions as it enters the different phases of reopening. Residents are still required to wear masks and social distance. According to a local attorney, landlord and condo boards have the option to take legal action, if failure to follow social distancing and gathering ordinances endanger other tenants and expose them to the coronavirus.

New York City-based Real estate attorney Leni Cummins, who works with Cozen O’Connor, is a member of its Coronavirus Task Force. Cummins recently issued a client alert detailing what condo boards can proactively do to prepare for future transgressions and how to hold meetings, if a second wave of the Coronavirus strikes.

“Most standard forms of proprietary leases and bylaws do not adequately address the novel issues and situations presented by the governor’s shelter-in-place orders and other governmental agency and administrative quarantine protocols,” Cummins said. “Now, more than ever, we recommend that boards reevaluate their governing documents, forms, and agreements and adopt amendments and rules that better equip themselves for this new reality.” Cummins provides tips on ways for boards to transition into new protocols to combat the rate of spread. 

She advises boards to amend their by-laws to reflect changing measures. Amendments include hosting virtual board meetings, voting by mail, barring move-in or move-out dates for tenants, restricting building access solely to primary renters and owners, and restricting access to property amenities. Cummins also prompted boards to include imposing fines on violators of these regulations regardless if the violator is a tenant, building worker, or apartment owner. 

In March, Cummins advised association boards that legal action and imposed fines of up to $1,000 tends to deter negative behavior. When a board believes there is an emergency related to violation of government orders to the quarantine, then it may be eligible to proceed in legal hearings. Cummins supports boards suing non-compliance if residents pose an “ongoing threat” to the health and safety of those around them. 

New York courts recently reopened electronic filing for all concerns. During the beginning stages of the state’s battle with the coronavirus, courts refused to hear cases deemed non-essential. Cases related to the Coronavirus, including social distancing-related ones filed by boards, were always considered as emergency filings and were eligible to proceed. For more New York City Technology news and culture, follow us on Instagram and Twitter @NYCWired

Ema Gavrilovic

Ema Gavrilovic is a graduate of DePaul University with M. Ed in clinical counseling degree. Ema's career accomplishments include freelance writing, social media and PR consulting. In her spare time Ema likes to explore outdoors, cooking and yoga.