Shareholders B. Michael Clark, Jr. and Susan C. Odess authored the latest edition of the firm’s “Real Estate Counselor” column appearing in today’s Miami Herald. The article, which is titled “Don’t Let Your Guard Down: Here Are Some Hurricane Prep, Recovery Reminders for Storm Season’s Second Half,” focuses on the types of activities and initiatives that condominium associations along the coast and other Florida community associations should be taking in advance of as well as in the aftermath of a severe hurricane. Their article reads:
. . . Given the precarious condition of the Florida insurance marketplace today, it behooves property owners and community associations throughout the state to take the upmost precautions to prepare for any storms and recoveries as the season draws to a close in November.
For condominium associations on or near the coast, they should consider pre-negotiated service contracts with vendors who typically assist in the aftermath of a storm. This can include water restoration companies to mitigate flooding, debris removal companies, and security providers.
If a storm is approaching, boards of directors should begin by ensuring they have up-to-date paper rosters of the current residents stored at a secure and accessible location. Accompanying it should be a copy of the governing documents, a certified copy of the insurance policy, bank account information, service provider contracts, and contact information for all residents, staff and vendors.
It is also highly advisable to take date-stamped videos and photos of the entire property, including all mechanical and common elements.
For any communities in evacuation zones that may be in the path of a major hurricane, boards of directors and property management should prepare for the very real possibility that they may not be able to access the building for some time in the aftermath of a severe storm. They should have a detailed plan for entry back to the property, including designating who will be first on site, but they should be prepared for the possibility that local officials may deny them access to their building(s) or close off the area.
After a severe storm and impact, important decisions will need to be made, so directors should be prepared to hold an emergency board meeting at an alternate location.
Associations should immediately document the damage by taking thorough photos and videos. This is one of the first orders of business, and it should take place prior to any repairs or clean up.
Any roof damage should be assessed with extreme caution and only under the guidance of qualified professionals. Insurers could argue that damage was exacerbated by individuals walking on the roof to take photos/videos and install tarps. If the damage is not visible from the roof access door of condominium buildings, associations and the professionals they retain should consider using a drone to take aerial videos and photos.
Immediately following all of the photo and video documentation, repairs should begin by focusing on any and all efforts necessary to prevent further damage and ensure safety, such as covering damaged roofs and broken windows.
Associations will be eager to begin cleaning up their pool decks and other common areas, but they should do so without discarding any damaged features and fixtures. Insurance company adjusters should be allowed to witness firsthand the entirety of the damage, so it is best to avoid discarding any broken equipment and instead move it to a safe location on the premises.
Insurance companies will be mobilizing their adjusters and coordinating their initial inspections immediately after the storm passes and it becomes safe for them to operate, so condominium associations and all affected owners should move very quickly to file their storm and flood claims.
Associations and owners can also opt to consult with highly qualified, experienced and licensed public adjusters. These professionals investigate, file and negotiate claims in exchange for a percentage of the final amount paid out by insurers. They understand the nuances of the entire claims process, and provide guidance and representation from the initial filing to the final payout. . .
Michael and Susan conclude their article by noting that preparing for and recovering from a major hurricane takes considerable time and resources for Florida condominium associations and property owners. They suggest that by following these and other precautions and best practices, associations and owners will be able to mitigate the disruptions caused by storms and expedite any repairs in their aftermath.
Our firm salutes Michael and Susan for sharing their insights into these important reminders for Florida communities and property owners with the readers of the Miami Herald. Click here to read the complete article in the newspaper’s website.