COVID-19 outbreak has forced NYCHA and DHS to take extra precaution. Throughout the City and State, agencies and industries responsible for housing individuals, are taking measures and adopting policies to address the COVID-19 health crisis. The policies and measures generally focus on preventing the spread of disease, isolating infected individuals and answering questions on how compromised services would operate. In the hospitality industry many have also implemented policies regarding the refunds and the cancellation of services, as well as provide general travel tips.
New York City Housing Authority
On March 17, 2020, the New York City Housing Authority announced a number of measures they planned to take to address the health and safety of their residents and employees, and to help stop the spread of COVID-19. NYCHA worked with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to develop the following measures.
The property management offices will reduce staff and limit the available services to only emergency services. The emergency services include water leaks, gas leaks, local power issues, stoppages and hazardous conditions (e.g., electrical issues or fire hazards). The management offices may also utilize phone or email to accept documentation or schedule an appoint, discuss confidential information, accept notices of intent to vacate, return of keys and accepted responses to the annual window guard notice. Inspections and scheduled maintenance will be temporarily suspended and eventually rescheduled. The notice advices residents to use the MyNYCHA portal to reschedule work orders and submit emergency repair requests.
NYCHA also advises that residents should be prepared to receive questions about COVID-19 by repair staff. If someone in a household has a fever, cough, shortness of breath or is confirmed to have COVID-19, that person could be asked to remain in a separate room or maintain at least a six-foot difference until the emergency repair is completed. Finally, NYCHA hired a contractor to clean all senior buildings. As of March 15, 2020, all seventy-one senior buildings were cleaned.
Department of Homeless Services
On March 4, 2020, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Homeless Shelters. The guidance is twelve pages and is intended to assist facilities with devising strategies to prevent the introduction of COVID-19, manage known or potential exposures to the virus and prevent widespread transmission of the virus within the facility.
Measures like increased and instructive facility signage, screening visitors for fever or signs of acute respiratory illness and ensuring sick leave policies for employees and volunteers if contracting the disease were made to help prevent the introduction of the pathogen into the facility. Homeless Services will also work to prevent the spread of the pathogen by restricting residents within the facility to a room by themselves or with other infected members. The infected would also be required to wear a facemask if they are required to move from the secured area. Homeless services will also make a concerted effort to support hand and respiratory hygiene for residents, visitors and employees.
The Department of Social Services and Homeless Service will continue to advise clients and providers on best practices and to report any concerns as they arise. While family programs and single adult programs function differently, Social Services and Homeless Services are evaluating their approach to services and programs to increase social distancing and limit gatherings. For example, unit cleaning protocols were adjusted to keep clients within their assigned units. Extending or staggering mealtimes is also being explored to limit congregation. Homeless Services will also work with unsheltered homeless to identify infection signs and coordinate medical care. Outreach teams are working throughout the City in a manner similar to the extreme weather protocols. The outreach teams are also working to procure and distribute hygiene supplies to the unsheltered.
Isaac McGinn, spokesperson for the Department of Social Services stated “DSS-DHS-HRA is always prepared to connect clients to any medical services they may need for any reason, including as [it] related to COVID-19. DSS-HRA-DHS is coordinating closely with City Hall and City Health officials (DOHMH, H+H, etc) as the City ensures all agencies, including DSS-HRA-DHS, are informed and prepared, in turn relaying information to those New Yorkers we serve so that they too are informed and prepared as we all respond together to a constantly-evolving situation.”
On March 15, 2020, AirBnB put out an update on their Extenuating circumstances policy and the COVID-19 virus. The update provides that reservations made on or before March 14, 2020, with check-in dates between then and April 14,2020 may be canceled before check-in. Guests and hosts will receive a full refund. Reservations made after March 14, 2020, will not be covered by the policy unless the guest or the host has contracted the virus. The policy will not apply to reservations already under way.
The remainder of AirBnB’s policy and recommendations are given through the publication of “mini-articles” on their website. The policies and recommendations apply generally to AirBnB and travel as a whole. You can locate those articles here. For hosts, the company suggests disinfecting surfaces between guests, washing towels and liens, providing tissues, paper towels and soap, and frequently washing one’s hands. These recommendations purportedly came directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations.
It is important to note that in New York City, the State Multiple Dwelling Law prohibits “un-hosted” rentals of less than thirty-days in “Class A” buildings. Class A buildings are essentially those buildings occupied by three or more families as permanent residences. The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement may impose fine of up to $2,500 per day for building and unit owners found in violation of the law. AirBnB and similar services have been engaged in litigation over these restrictions.
CityLand reached out to the New York Hotel and Motel Trade Council for comment. The article will be updated with their statement when received.
By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)