Is your condominium or homeowners association properly prepared for a natural disaster event such as a hurricane? The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1st of this year and will continue until November 30th. While September is usually the most active month for tropical activity, last year’s Hurricane Matthew demonstrates that communities should be prepared well before a hurricane hits to mitigate confusion in the aftermath.
Florida condominiums and homeowners associations are encouraged to take the following steps to ensure that they are properly prepared for an upcoming weather event and to put themselves in the best position to respond should damage to property occur. The list below is not all inclusive but should provide a solid basis for preparation. In addition to seeking advice of legal counsel, associations should work carefully with their Community Association Manager (CAM), insurance advisors, and property maintenance staff and providers.
- Confirm that you have up to date information for residents and guests, including:
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Emergency contact numbers
- Consider developing emergency contact system to notify owners if mandatory evacuation is required
- Check with your insurance agent to make sure that you have proper coverage
- Ensure that you have copies of your policies that are readily available
- Ensure that you have emergency contact information for directors and officers available in case of a claim
- Bank account information should be readily available, including institution name and account number
- Consider making arrangements with bank for line of credit depending on financial status of community
- Take pictures of existing structures, amenities, and other real and personal property prior to a significant weather event.
- When possible, create a database or inventory of property and equipment with identifying information such as serial numbers, or product vendor and models
- Store electronically, if possible
- Ensure that documents are in safe location with minimal risk of being damaged
- While not required, may be advisable to establish committee authorized by Board to make immediate decisions in case of emergency if Board members are not available
- For condominium associations, Section 718.1625 of the Florida Statutes (2016) establishes emergency powers to be exercised by the Board of Directors. A link to the statutory provision may be found here
- For homeowners associations, Section 720.316 of the Florida Statutes (2016) establishes emergency powers to be exercised by the Board of Directors. A link to the statutory provision may be found here
- After a substantial weather event, communities are encouraged to consult with their CAM, insurance agent, and legal counsel
- Avoid the temptation to make quick decisions based on direct marketing at expense of valid quotes for services
- Review your insurance contract regarding repairs and whether they are required to be made during submission of a claim
- Keep copies of all invoices, receipts, and any other documentation related to post-disaster services and products
- Timely submit claims as required by insurance policies
The above list is not all inclusive but should provide a solid basis for review for Florida condominium and homeowners associations in advance of a major disaster event. Proper and thorough preparation typically ensures that the Association is able to respond to a disaster event through notifying its residents, addressing immediate damage to real and personal property, and submitting claims to insurers. Communities with questions regarding their disaster plan should speak with their CAM and qualified legal counsel.