When the novel coronavirus arrived in Alberta, residents and managers of tightly packed multi-family housing developments quickly realized special precautions were necessary to keep people safe and healthy.

In the middle of March, the condo board of the 220-unit Silhouette at Cranston proactively closed and locked its steam room/hot tub, gym and games room.

Days later, it launched a thorough disinfectant cleaning of both buildings – followed by a deep clean twice a week of unit door handles, elevators (two per building), mailboxes, intercoms and railings – in addition to weekly common-area maintenance.

The three-storey, two-building complex is home to many senior residents and condo association board president Rick Robertson says the whole board was keenly aware of this group’s susceptibility to COVID-19.

As a “geeky engineer,” Robertson says the science behind transmission of the virus made closing communal amenities an obvious choice.

All measures related to the virus – including the need for social distancing and self-isolation (particularly for residents returning from out-of-country visits) – were communicated to residents three different ways: property management email, community association chat room, and signs posted in both buildings for those without internet accessibility.

The results, Robertson says, have been generally positive, citing a recent fire alarm (triggered by cleaning fumes in the garbage room) where residents spread out across outdoor lawns to maintain social distancing.

Cleaning, distancing in hallways and lobbies, and elevator etiquette (face the wall inside the elevator, limit ridership to three people or wait for next one, avoid touching your face after pressing buttons and sanitize hands after leaving) are critical to ensuring condo residents are safe.

However, Curtis Siracky, president of the Association of Condominium Managers of Alberta (ACMA), says significant economic and regulatory issues have also arisen during the pandemic.

ACMA has asked Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish to address several critical areas: relaxation of regulations on timing of annual general meetings and special general meetings; the ability to halt condo reserve fund contributions, if necessary, to pay maintenance/utility costs; and, with growing fears residents will be unable to pay monthly condo fees, allow reserve funds (intended to pay for capital improvements) to be used for day-to-day operating shortfalls.

Robertson says the threat of a fee shortage worries his condo board, especially with increased cleaning costs and the fact necessities like building insurance (the premiums for which rose 150 per cent in the last year) must still be paid.

Siracky, owner/president of CS Management, says condo management companies, which ACMA has asked to be declared essential services, and residents need to follow directions from Alberta Health Services and the government during the pandemic.

Now that most people – including kids, with schools and playgrounds closed – are staying close to home, Siracky says the most common complaints in condo buildings lately have been over increased noise.