Preparing for Hurricane Idalia – Tips for Condominium & Homeowner Associations from a Board-Certified Attorney

Tropical Storm Idalia seems poised to become the first Florida landfall for the 2023 hurricane season. Here are some tips to prepare for this storm, and, in general, for the hurricane season.

  • Assess your property to prepare for the worst.
    • Inventory association property in case you need to file a claim.
    • Remove and secure outdoor furniture.
    • Lower pool levels.
    • Clear ditches and drainage structures.
    • Close parking areas where flooding is likely.
    • Fill back-up generator tanks.
  • Back up important records and files. Make sure you have your information backed up and secure. Print and keep paper copies of key documents (e.g., phone numbers, insurance policy information) that you want available even during a power loss.
  • Plan for emergency action that may be required after the storm.
    • Make sure you have a good phone number and email for management, board members, insurance claim departments, attorneys, association engineers & maintenance personnel.
    • What contingent funds are available, and who has authority to write checks or authorize payments?
    • Plan ahead for possible emergency board meetings.
      • How will the meeting be held (e.g., phone, Zoom)?
      • What notice, if any, will be given to members?
  • Note that Florida Condominiums (F.S. 718.1265) and Florida Homeowners Associations (F.S. 720.316) have emergency powers to deal with the storm and its aftermath.
    • Governor Desantis has declared a State of Emergency for Alachua, Bay, Calhoun, Charlotte, Citms, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, and Wakulla Counties. Executive Order 23-171.
    • Associations in these counties now have emergency powers.
    • The powers include (except where the governing documents specifically prohibit):
      • You can hold board or membership meetings by phone or video-conference
      • The requirement for meeting notices is suspended. Instead of the standard notice requirement (typically 48 hours in advance), only “practicable” notice of meetings and decisions made at meetings is required. Advance notice should still be given where circumstances allow.
      • The board can enter into agreements with counties and cities for debris removal.
      • Based upon the advice of emergency management officials or public health officials, or upon the advice of licensed professionals retained by or otherwise available to the board, determine any portion of the common areas or facilities unavailable for entry or occupancy by owners or their family members, tenants, guests, agents, or invitees to protect their health, safety, or welfare.
      • Based upon the advice of emergency management officials or public health officials or upon the advice of licensed professionals retained by or otherwise available to the board, determine whether the common areas or facilities can be safely inhabited, accessed, or occupied.
      • Levy special assessments without owner approval.
      • Without owners’ approval, borrow money and pledge association assets as collateral to fund emergency repairs and carry out the duties of the association if operating funds are insufficient.
      • For condominiums:
        • Mitigate further damage, injury, or contagion, including taking action to contract for the removal of debris and to prevent or mitigate the spread of fungus or contagion, including, but not limited to, mold or mildew, by removing and disposing of wet drywall, insulation, carpet, cabinetry, or other fixtures on or within the condominium property, even if the unit owner is obligated by the declaration or law to insure or replace those fixtures and to remove personal property from a unit.
        • Contract, on behalf of any unit owner or owners, for items or services for which the owners are otherwise individually responsible, but which are necessary to prevent further injury, contagion, or damage to the condominium property or association property. In such event, the unit owner or owners on whose behalf the board has contracted are responsible for reimbursing the association for the actual costs of the items or services, and the association may use its lien authority provided by s. 718.116 to enforce collection of the charges. Without limitation, such items or services may include the drying of units, the boarding of broken windows or doors, the replacement of damaged air conditioners or air handlers to provide climate control in the units or other portions of the property, and the sanitizing of the condominium property or association property, as applicable.
        • However, an association may not prohibit unit owners, tenants, guests, agents, or invitees of a unit owner from accessing a condominium unit for the purposes of selling or leasing their unit, unless a government order restricting access has been issued.

The emergency powers do not end after the storm passes. Rather, the special powers continue for the “time reasonably necessary” to address the damage and conditions caused by the storm.

Should you have any questions or concerns, prior to or after the storm, the lawyers at Ansbacher Law are standing by to help.