September 27, 2022
Hurricane Ian is rapidly approaching the State of Florida, with top wind speeds currently at 120 mph. The outer rain bands have already reached South Florida, while the Gulf coast is bracing for catastrophic flooding.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 3 storm is expected to be a major hurricane when it makes landfall in Florida on Wednesday night, posing a significant threat to life and property.
Governor Ron DeSantis declared a State of Emergency for the entire State of Florida due to Hurricane Ian. Chapters 718 and 720 of the Florida Statutes provide condominium and homeowners associations with certain emergency powers that may be exercised during a State of Emergency. In the exercise of these emergency powers, an Association has the authority to:
- cancel and reschedule any association meeting and provide notice as practicable;
- relocate the association’s principal office;
- enter into agreements with local counties and municipalities to assist with debris removal, implement a disaster plan, which may include shutting down or off elevators, electricity, water, sewer, security systems, or air conditioners;
- with help of emergency management officials, determine any portion of the association property unavailable for entry or occupancy; and/or
- levy special assessments without a vote of the owners;
These emergency powers were designed to allow associations to respond to the concerns associated with such emergency situations in a more expeditious manner.
To the extent our association clients and neighbors are undertaking preparations for Hurricane Ian, we recommend the following:
Take Videos and Photographs of Association Property
- Prior to the hurricane arriving, your association should take videos and photographs of all association real property and personal property in the event a claim needs to be filled.
- The videos and pictures taken should include a date stamp to avoid an unnecessary dispute with an insurance company wherein they dispute the accuracy of the records.
- The board of directors and, if applicable, its property manager should maintain electronic copies of these videos and photos.
Ensure Potential Projectiles are Secured
- Items such as ladders, paint cans, supplies, outdoor furniture, etc. which may normally be stored outside have the potential to become airborne projectiles, posing threats to people and property. Such items must be secured responsibly when a hurricane watch is issued. Landscaping and exteriors should be inspected regularly to minimize these potential threats.
Establish Lines of Communication with Local Governmental Authorities
- Your association should determine who is responsible on a municipal level for hurricane response and obtain contact information, including phone numbers and emails. Make sure your association is included on notification lists (e-mails, texts, and/or voicemail) and that residents have access to transportation in the event an evacuation is ordered.
Hurricane Shutters and Boarding Windows
- The association should install hurricane shutters or board windows on all common element structures that are owned by the association.
- Additionally, the association should strongly encourage owners/residents to install hurricane shutters or board their windows to protect against damage from strong wind gusts caused by the Hurricane.
Ensure Equipment in Good Working Order
- Many communities have a back-up generator, water pump, and/or elevator systems. These systems, like all others, require regular maintenance to ensure that they are in good working order when needed and especially during emergencies.
- Your association should inspect fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, alarms, smoke detectors and other emergency alarms/equipment to ensure they are functioning properly.
- Your association should inspect all emergency lighting and replace bulbs and install fresh batteries where needed.
Communicate with Owners and Residents
- To the extent your community has established a hurricane preparedness plan, it is important that you publish such plans to Owners and Residents, in addition to keeping them informed of your association’s operations before, during and after a storm. Encourage Owners and Residents to take proactive measures to safeguard their property, including installation of shutters and removal of furnishings from balconies.
Print Out Helpful Materials in the Event Power Lost for an Extended Period of Time
- It is likely that the Hurricane will result in a loss of power for an extended period of time. Your association should print out essential documents such as contact lists, vendor lists, insurance policies, emergency services information, evacuation plans, and other important documents should be printed and maintained by your association’s Board of Directors.
In the aftermath of the Hurricane, your association should:
Inspect and Photograph Association Property
- In order to document and properly preserve your insurance claim for damages, your association should inspect association property to the best of your ability and take photographs and video evidence of the existing damage.
- The videos and photographs taken should also be date and time stamped so that they may be provided to the appropriate insurance carrier.
Clear Entryways of Debris and Debris Removal
- Your association should ensure that all points of ingress and egress into the community are free of debris to ensure that Owners/Residents are able to access their homes. Additionally, it is not uncommon for many trees and/or their branches to fall as the result of a Hurricane. Your association should contact a vendor to remove debris from the association as soon as is practical after the storm to remove dangerous conditions from association property.
Call Emergency Board Meetings and Member Meetings as Needed
- The Association should call emergency board meetings and member meetings as needed to ensure that residents have the ability to share information, express concerns and ask questions. Your association should ask residents to inspect their homes for damages and to report such damage to the association. Your association should advise the residents of actions that have been taken by the board related to damages, in addition to actions that the association will take in the immediate future. Further, the association should notify residents of any portions of association property that are off limits due to damage caused by the Hurricane.
Create a List of Required Repairs
- In the aftermath of the Hurricane, your association should inspect association property and create a written list of necessary repairs. The association should document the location of the item in need of repair in addition to describe the nature of the repair required.
Provide Periodic Updates to Residents
- To the extent your association has a website, it should be updated regularly to provide information to residents as more information is learned. Your association should also post signs and important messages at the community entrance in addition to other areas where information is provided to residents. To the extent your association has an email list, updates should be sent via email to residents.
Eisinger Law is a full-service Florida law firm focusing on community association law, real estate law, developer representation, commercial litigation, insurance law, estate planning and probate. For more info visit eisingerlaw.com or call 954-894-8000.