Can Florida Community Associations Ban Masks?
In late 2023, the Florida legislature and governor passed a law, euphemistically called the Protection from Discrimination Based on Health Care Choices Act, which bans businesses and governmental entities from refusing opportunities based on vaccination status – and prohibits the requiring of masks in public places. In the rush to declare normalcy, though, there is an argument to be made that this law disproportionately affects senior citizens – particularly when the law extends to 55-and-over housing communities.
Heightened Health Risks Create Issues
55-and-over housing communities are one of the exceptions to the Fair Housing Act, which normally prohibits discrimination on the basis of factors like age. In these communities, at least 80 percent of the units must be occupied by at least one person over the age of 55, though people of any age can occupy the remaining 20 percent. These are not assisted living communities; rather, they are independent living communities, just as in any other community association in Florida.
That said, it is not uncommon for a disproportionate number of older people to have increased health concerns, and COVID-19 risks have been shown to increase with age. The recently-passed law includes “condominium[s], cooperative[s], [and] homeowners’ association[s],” essentially giving the boards of these entities the right to dictate whether medically fragile residents should have the chance to participate in public life – or not.
What Are My Options?
If you are a resident of a 55+ community association and your board seeks to implement a ban on masks, it remains to be seen what your options might be. The way the law is worded means that masks themselves are not strictly banned – but it is now against the law to require someone to wear one, unless the situation meets one of the rare exceptions. This makes it more difficult to combat than it would be as a straightforward ban on masking or proof of vaccination status.
That said, it may prove unfortunately easy to show that injury has been done, once the law has been in effect for a period of time. There are already reports on community associations having to curtail their residential amenities out of fear for their medically vulnerable residents – and while social isolation is not necessarily an actionable wrong, there may be cases that come up later on if the COVID-19 infection rate spikes in the coming months.
Contact A Hollywood, FL Community Association Attorney
Sometimes, governing authorities may make laws that are not necessarily in the best interests of all their constituents. If you have questions or concerns about Florida’s law restricting COVID-19 protections, contacting a Hollywood homeowners association attorney from the Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. may at least help to clarify your options. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.