No! If Hurricane Irma taught us anything it is that adequate preparation before the storm will go a long way towards addressing issues after the storm.
Now is the time for associations to communicate with its owners about insurance- and liability-related issues. One of the often-confusing areas for many is understanding the scope and reach of the association’s insurance coverage versus the insurance coverage obligations of individual unit owners. Generally speaking, the association’s insurance coverage will only address the common elements. It will be up to individual unit owners to secure adequate insurance coverage for their own units.
If there is any confusion associated with insurance-coverage-related issues, the time is now to speak with an insurance agent to ensure that both your community and personal unit are adequately insured.
Speaking of insurance, associations should safely store copies of all of their applicable insurance policies. To the extent digital copies can be arranged for these insurance policies then that should be arranged too. These policies should be stored not just safely but stored in a manner that permits the association to easily gain access to the information contained in those policies after the storm has passed.
In the event that an insurance claim will need to be pursued then it is important to have “before” photos and videos of the property. In other words, take the time now to document, photograph and video your property. This will allow you to compare and contrast the extent of your damage “after” the storm hits. You can then present both “before” and “after” photographs, and videos, to an insurance company in support of your insurance claim.
Associations should also develop a plan to address a catastrophe. Since many associations are not just communities, but also families, these plans should include items such as cell phone communications and even meals. In the event of a lengthy power outage the association may want to take steps to have a generator present to have warm meals prepared for its members. The generator may also serve as a means to permit many individuals to charge their cell phones and other electronics to permit the members of the association to adequately communicate with their loved ones. The point here is that in addition to the traditional hurricane planning associated with many communities that focus on protecting the property, take some time to consider quality-of-life issues for the community in the event of a lengthy power outage or other related issues.
After a hurricane we often see many individuals, and companies, swoop in from out of town and promise many associations millions of dollars in insurance proceeds. But these groups often fail to deliver on those promises. Rather than falling victim to the overzealous, post-storm claim professionals promising riches, the better practice is to put your team in place before the storm hits. That way as soon as the storm passes and it is safe to start working on your insurance claim, your pre-screened professionals can begin the process for you. It would also be just as important to discuss all of these issues with your association’s legal counsel as well.
Addressing these issues now will ensure that your community is prepared for the 2018 hurricane season before it even starts.
Written by Hugo Alvarez, ESQ and originally posted to the FL Condo HOA Law Blog