Orange County Partnership - News

Property Owners Should Communicate with Tenants to Help Mitigate COVID Liability

Commercial real estate property owners must communicate with their tenants by providing as much information as possible about the safeguards put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic and if a COVID-19-related legal claim has been filed against a property.


Attorney George Pincus of Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Stearns Weaver Miller, PA, outlined a series of recommendations for property owners in order to stave off COVID-19 liability issues.


In a recent NAIOP webinar, Pincus stressed that providing as much information as possible via e-mail, websites or written notices is a way to mitigate potential liability. Engaging in a transparency initiative also fosters the view that the ownership is acting as a “reasonable and prudent” commercial property owner and operator.


Pamela Westoff, a partner in the Sheppard Mullin law firm’s Los Angeles office, stressed that if there is a COVID-related case at your property, transparency between building owners, managers and tenants is crucial regarding any potential coronavirus exposure at the building. Sheppard Mullin is an international real estate, land use and environmental practice law firm.


“You have a duty of care to your occupants,” Westoff said. “You need to tell people that there was a danger and what’s been done about it. You have to balance that with the privacy laws—and there are a lot of them—that protect a person who has a health condition. So, our general advice has been that you do need to tell people in the building that there has been a case.”


Pincus also advised that a property owner must comply with all laws and regulations concerning reducing the spread of the pandemic, according to an article entitled “Property Owners Must Prepare for Potential COVID-19 Liability Issues” published on


Other tips Pincus offered include: establishing a consistent incident report procedure with the management and the maintenance team to handle COVID-19 cases at the property; contact your commercial general liability carrier to know what’s covered and to contact the CGLC when an incident occurs, even if you are not making a claim at that time.


“It is too soon to determine how the courts are going to interpret COVID-19 social distancing and government shutdowns of private property as being casualty events within the language of the insurance policy,” Pincus said. “Case law is all over the place. I don’t know how it will be resolved, but I am not optimistic.”


He added, what’s worse, many policies in effect exclude damage due to virus or bacteria.