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Preparing Your Community Association for the 2019 Hurricane Season

June 7th, 2019

Posted in Condominium & Homeowner Association Law

June 1st marks the official start to the 2019 hurricane season, however, now for the fifth straight year the first storm of the year was named before the season even began.  “Andrea” formed in late May and a new storm, Invest 91L, is currently brewing in the Gulf of Mexico and threatening to become “Barry.” 

The 2019 season is projected to be average to slightly below average. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) predicts there will be between 9-15 named storms, 4-8 of which will become hurricanes and of those hurricanes 2-4 will ultimately become major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).

Florida condominium and homeowner 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, community associations should work carefully with their Community Association Manager (CAM), insurance advisors, property maintenance staff, and providers.

Resident Information

  • Confirm that you have up to date information for residents and guests, including phone numbers, email addresses, and emergency contact numbers
  • Consider developing emergency contact system to notify owners if mandatory evacuation is required
  • Keep members with disabilities in mind and provide a list of available services for such members
  • Seasonal owners and “snowbirds” should be required to prepare their unit or home prior to departing for the hurricane season

Insurance

  • Meet with your insurance agent to make sure that you have proper coverage
  • 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

Financial Information

  • 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

Property Documentation

  • 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

Official Records

  • Store electronically, if possible, with proper data backups and security
  • Ensure that documents are in a safe location with minimal risk of being damaged

Disaster Preparation

  • Maintain a list of vendors such as tree trimmers, water and mold remediation specialists, and for other services that may be necessary after a storm event
  • Install hurricane shutters or board up exposed windows
  • Inspect all fire and safety equipment
  • Prepare to be without power for several days and make plans for electronic access gates
  • Store and secure any debris or loose items such as chairs, furniture, pool equipment and anything that could become a projectile in high winds

Disaster Committee

  • While not required, it may be advisable to establish a committee authorized by the Board to make immediate decisions in case of emergency if the Board members are not available
  • For condominium associations, Section 718.1265 of the Florida Statutes (2018) establishes emergency powers to be exercised by the Board of Directors. 
  • For homeowners’ associations, Section 720.316 of the Florida Statutes (2018) establishes emergency powers to be exercised by the Board of Directors. 

Post Disaster

  • 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 the 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 of 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.

Jay Shearer, Esq.
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