Shelter-in-Place Orders Challenge Associa to Keep More Than 5 Million Homeowners Safe Across North American Properties

Gloria Salinas, Managing Director, Economic Development

For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic’s shelter-in-place orders mean clients go home and stay away.

But for Associa, shelter-in-place means its clients stay home and rarely leave, making the company’s preventive measures all the more critical.

“Every jurisdiction has a different timing or take on each regulation, from social distancing to shelter-in-place, which varies by market,” said Jon Hunter, Associa Chief Operating Officer. “It has been like changing a tire on a car while it’s going 75 miles per hour.”

Dallas-based Associa is the nation’s largest homeowner’s association (HOA) management company that specializes in nationwide property and community management of single-family homes, mixed-use developments, condos, and high-rise luxury living with resort-style amenities, including golf courses. The firm assists in management of more than five million residents in more than 2.5 million units across more than 12,000 communities in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

“Anytime you deal with a crisis, no matter what line of business you operate, it’s going to test the agility of your organization,” Hunter said. “The enduring story for us will be the resiliency and agility of our employees and clients.”

The pandemic has been a test of agility and resiliency for the firm’s 10,000 employees across North America, with some staff serving homeowners in condos, similar to cruise ship guests in close quarter and access to amenities. In early March, Associa transitioned 90 percent of its employees to work remotely from home.

But there was no blueprint for staff serving residents in high-density properties where social distancing can prove challenging in close living arrangements, such as condos and luxury high-rises with amenities. Hunter said setting up a structure for employees and communications with residents was key.

“You have to provide structure, so employees know what to do and how to do it,” he said. “We serve alongside voluntary boards, and it’s important for us to come alongside them and provide resources that range from webinars with lawyers to educating them on ventilation system upgrades or how to protect residents who have been infected in a community.”

From an operational perspective, Associa has been very effective in protecting employee and client health and safety, while being responsive and efficient in managing positive cases, Hunter said. Associa made communication upgrades before the outbreak, and it has served as its best tool to keep residents informed and assist HOA boards in managing property response.

The firm’s concentrated effort across its North American residential properties have focused on proper and continuous sanitation of common areas, restrictions to amenities, management of property deliveries, and quick response and communication to residents if there is a positive test in a community. But Hunter said social distancing is by far the best tool.

“The biggest preventive measure there is, is our personal responsibility to practice proper hygiene and protect ourselves,” he said. “We can do everything right, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the individual.”

Regardless of when government-mandated restrictions are lifted, Hunter said the response to a positive case in March or in May will remain the same, and maintaining social distancing to prevent further spread will remain important on properties.

“One of my favorite quotes is by Yogi Berra; ‘It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,’” Hunter said. “There are 100 different ways this could go. We don’t necessarily know what will happen, but it will be a wonderful opportunity to take away key learnings to implement, and I think there are real key benefits that will come out of this.”

For more information, visit Associa’s COVID-19 resources page.