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BOMA International presses Congress on liability, risk insurance and PPP during pandemic

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International has continued efforts to highlight the needs of the owners and managers of commercial real estate with U.S. congressional leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Congress considers additional legislation during the pandemic, BOMA International asks lawmakers to consider measures that ensure both the physical safety of commercial real estate employees and tenants and the financial security of this critical industry.

As BOMA International continues ongoing conversations with congressional leadership, it wants to ensure the following three priority items are considered during the drafting of any future legislation:

  • The safety of and liability protection for property owners and operators;
  • Business interruption and pandemic risk insurance; and
  • Payroll Protection Program (PPP) improvements.

Many BOMA members are essential personnel, keeping the nation’s infrastructure safe and communities operational; the critical value of this work has never been more evident. As discussions on re-occupancy intensify as part of a broader conversation about getting America back to work, BOMA International emphasizes that any requirements for building personnel to check the temperature of occupants and visitors at the point of entry require serious deliberation. At minimum, federal support and resources would be needed to provide building personnel with the necessary medical training, personal protective equipment and liability protections. As the first trade association to address these concerns with Congress, BOMA International is committed to making sure property professionals are protected both now and during the re-occupancy period.

Current risk coverage policies for many businesses are proving inadequate to cover the losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemics are often excluded in general policies, creating a significant problem for both insurers and insureds. The future need for greater business interruption or pandemic risk insurance will be significant, though the industry fears the availability of these policies may be dramatically diminished. BOMA encourages Congress to work with the real estate community to create a public-private partnership similar to the successful Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) to ensure future insurance needs are met.

Commercial building professionals also are bracing for historic levels of rental shortfalls in the next two months, followed by continued challenges throughout 2020. While provisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, such as the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), have played an important role in aiding tenants that would otherwise struggle to pay rent, improvements related to relief accessibility are needed. The Real Estate Roundtable, of which BOMA International is a member, developed an eight-point plan to address these problems, and BOMA International expresses strong support for these outlined improvements.

On behalf of the owners and managers of commercial properties across the United States, BOMA International Chair Scott O. Jones, PE, and BOMA International President Henry Chamberlain, APR, FASAE, CAE, sent a letter to congressional leadership on April 16, 2020, to advocate for these priority issues. This letter is one of many ways BOMA International and its members have sought to partner with the public sector on comprehensive solutions that will keep Americans safe and sustain the industry.

BOMA leveraged its longstanding relationship with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Cybersecurity and Security Infrastructure Agency (CISA) to provide recommendations on essential personnel decisions, which later influenced the Executive Orders put out by state and local governments across the U.S. Central to this process was the mobilization of BOMA’s nationwide network of local associations and state coalitions, which reached out to elected officials to reinforce the need for commercial building personnel to provide essential services as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

A repository of some of the resources and materials created or curated by the BOMA network can be found on BOMA International’s Coronavirus Resource Center, which includes numerous guidance documents, webinar recordings, relevant articles and links to tools for tracking coronavirus-related state legislation. BOMA International and BOMA local associations are committed to working to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the health and economic security of commercial real estate professionals and their communities, and will continue to advocate on behalf of the industry now and as re-occupancy in commercial buildings occurs.