Hurricane Season Is Upon Us-Is your Association Ready?

By: Lindsay E. Raphael, Esq., Senior Counsel, Sachs Sax Caplan, P.L.

Hurricane

The heart of hurricane season is quickly approaching---the full season runs from June 1 to November 30th.

Year after year we all hear news reports about how this hurricane season is going to be the most active yet and then if we are lucky, we have a relatively quiet season and if we are really lucky, South Florida is temporarily spared. The problem is people become immune to hearing about how important it is to be prepared and then they are annoyed because after preparing for a hurricane, the hurricane may turn and not hit our area. Complacency is dangerous. It is better to be prepared and spared then to be unprepared and hit with a hurricane (or a tropical storm).

The association’s board of directors is responsible for making sure the association’s property is prepared for a hurricane, owners have the responsibility to make sure their own property is prepared and that no loose objects are left outside. While every association has some exposure to a hurricane, disaster planning has the potential and probability of saving lives and minimizing damage.

Below are 8 tips to help you prepare for a hurricane:

  1. Insurance Policies: Make sure the association’s insurance policies (including windstorm and flood insurance) are in place prior to the start of hurricane season. Secure copies of all current insurance policies along with the contact information of the association’s insurance companies and agents so that in the event the building sustains damage the association has access to this important paperwork.
  2. Disaster Plan: The association should have a disaster plan that is ready to be implemented if necessary.
  3. Safeguarding Important Documents; Make Copies of your Business Records: The documents that should be safeguarded and copied include, without limitation, the governing documents, insurance policies, bank account numbers, statements, checks, assessment payment history, minutes, approvals, unit owner roster, emergency contact information, vendor information lists, etc. This information should be kept in a place the association can retrieve after the storm.
  4. Backup Computer Files: Be sure that computer files essential to running the HOA or condominium are backed up.
  5. Take Photos: Take photos of the association’s assets and property including office equipment, supplies, buildings, improvements, furniture, art, etc. These should be stored in a safe place so they can be retrieved and referred to after the storm.
  6. Remove Items from Balconies, Patios, Lawns and Debris: With respect to a condominium association, the Board should have a plan for removal of debris and items left on balconies or patios by maintenance staff so that debris or personal property does not become projectile and a danger. Also, have a plan in place for each condominium owner or resident to remove furniture and other belongings from their balcony or patio. With respect to an HOA, it is likely that the owner will be responsible for removing debris and personal property as to avoid such items becoming projectile.
  7. Hurricane Preparedness For Owners Who are Absent: The association should have a rule which states if an owner plans to be absent from the home during the hurricane season, the owner must prepare the unit prior to departure by: (a) removing all items from the patio; and (b) designating a responsible firm or individual to care for the unit during the owner’s absence in the event the unit should suffer hurricane damage. Each owner should furnish the association with the name of such firm or individual. This should include rules regarding the installation and removal hurricane shutters, if applicable.
  8. Communication Plan: Summarize pre/post disaster communication methods as well as rules regarding the installation and removal of hurricane shutters.

Please note that both Chapters 718 and Chapters 720 contain sections on emergency powers which can be utilized if there is damage caused by an event for which a state of emergency has been declared in the area where the association is located.

Should you have any questions before or after the storm with respect to the contents of this article or legal questions in general, please do not hesitate to contact us.