Community associations need to be hurricane-proof, too

As Mike Tyson said, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit.” This hurricane season is confirming the need for community associations to develop the right plans, learn from their experiences and continually refine their plans.

Many volunteer community association boards and their managers already know they should have date-stamped videos of their properties and enough money on hand (fully funded reserves or lines of credit) for storm repairs. Some highly prepared boards also have pre-negotiated debris removal pricing from landscapers, have adopted and tested emergency plans and have recently reviewed their insurance policies with their insurance agents and association attorneys to ensure they properly understand their coverage limits and deductibles.

Prepared communities will fare better in direct strikes from major storms than unprepared communities in less fearsome storms. Boards can best protect their communities by taking key steps:

  • Separate the urgent from the important: After storms, boards should immediately secure buildings from water intrusion, clear debris, and dry out units. Florida condominium, cooperative and homeowners’ associations have emergency powers whenever the governor declares a state of emergency, including the right to enter units, remove water-soaked items, dry out units and lien owners who fail to reimburse the association.

 

Selecting contractors and others to repair long-term storm damages require the same due diligence as do regular renovations or repairs. Boards must avoid signing full repair contracts and assigning insurance benefits to contractors under pressure and without taking the steps they would ordinarily take when hiring contractors.

  • Don’t rely solely on insurance company adjusters. They are not there to protect associations’ claims. Boards should consult association counsel to help retain independent adjusters and/or engineers or architects to fully evaluate and compile claims.
  • Wait for high-quality contractors who would ordinarily be hired for nonemergency projects. Don’t settle for unlicensed and/or out-of-state contractors.
  • Maintain up-to-date emergency contact information. Websites, emails, texts, phone calls, and postal mail are important channels to keep members and residents informed of the condition of buildings, when they can safely return to their homes and expect repair work to start. Proof of consistent, informative communications can defuse potential negligence claims levied against boards.
  • Prepare for an avalanche of scare tactics and misinformation after the storm , including from associations’ own insurance companies. Some insurance companies are advising policyholders that retaining independent adjusters and/or attorneys for their claims will delay their claims. Clearly, this is false.
  • Continue addressing daily business. Boards that had units in collections pre-Irma might be tempted to postpone collections efforts and focus on more pressing matters. However, it is critical to continue collections, as the ability to make storm repairs depends on assessments. Abating or delaying collections activities sends the worst possible message when boards have to assemble resources to cover repairs.
  • Learn from experience. As Hurricane Maria confirms, there will always be another hurricane. Hurricane plans should be updated continuously based on the problems and best practices identified in prior storms. Boards that lacked funds to address urgent matters should begin funding reserves or pursuing lines of credit before the next storm season begins. Those whose landscapers removed debris late and/or charged exorbitant prices should pre-negotiate these services and pricing. If residents expressed confusion, frustration, or anger regarding board communications, boards should confirm what went wrong and establish effective communications channels.

While we will never control Mother Nature, we can take the right steps before and after storms strike to help ensure our communities recover quickly and efficiently.

Written by Donna DiMaggio Berger is a shareholder at the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff. Originally posted on Florida Condo HOA Law blog.

 

Importance of Preparing for Hurricane Season

Today, Wednesday June 1, marked the official start of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season that runs through the end of November. June 1 should serve as an important reminder about the need for individuals to be prepared for any emergency. This may be the start of the hurricane season, but emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere, and everyone needs to be prepared – not just those folks in hurricane-prone states.

Florida residents should check their personal preparations and emergency kits, note any alerts or messages from local emergency officials, and rehearse emergency evacuation routes. Emergency kit supplies should last at least seventy-two (72) hours.

Important items to have ready in case of an emergency include a battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, medicine, non-perishable food, hand-operated can opener, utility knife and first aid supplies. All important documents should be copied and stored in a waterproof bag. These may include medical records, contracts, property deeds, leases, banking records, insurance records and birth certificates.

When preparing for hurricane season and potential emergencies, the needs of all members of a household should be considered. If a household includes a person with a disability, special steps to assist them may be necessary and should be incorporated into all emergency planning.

Pets also require special handling. They may become agitated during the onset of a storm, so a pet carrier is a must for safe travel. Pet owners should research pet boarding facilities now within a certain radius of where they may evacuate, since animals may not be welcome in all shelters or hotels.

The beginning of hurricane season is also the time to ensure that their Associations maintain the proper insurance coverage, including both hazard and flood insurance coverage. Not only are homes and businesses in hurricane-prone states at risk for flooding, but inland flooding is common.
Mirza Basulto & Robbins, LLP, also reminds our Association clients to confirm that their insurance policies are in full force and effect and adjust deductibles as necessary.

We highly recommend Associations consult with their banks to obtain a line of credit or loan. In case of casualty loss, you must be prepared to cover potential expenses

As a cautionary tale, we have added a link to an article published in the Sun-Sentinel, as to the horrors of not maintaining a hazard and/or flood insurance policy. As a member of the Board of Directors, you have a fiduciary duty to the unit owners to ensure maintenance of such policies (and a personal liability if such policies are not maintained). Insurance premiums may be financed and/or loans may be obtained to finance the acquisition of such policies if not already in place. We encourage you to contact our office should you require more information in this regard.

In the event of the occurrence of any event that is covered under the Association’s insurance policies in effect, we encourage your Association to contact our firm to discuss the filing of a claim.

 

Originally posted at http://www.mbrlawyers.com/