By Robyn M. Severs / Published October 2022
Welcome back, snowbirds! We hope that you have enjoyed your time up north and are now ready to get settled back in your residence here in Florida. To assist in your return to the Sunshine State, below are some suggested tips and best practices to get you ready for your time down here.
Before you return and shortly after arriving, you should notify your community association manager of your return to your Florida residence and where you would like to have any notices to be sent now that you are back. You should ask the association manager if there have been any changes to board rules, policies, or community activities and projects which you should be aware of. While the manager would have provided notice to you, you may have easily forgotten—out of sight, out of mind.
You may also want to inform any neighbors of your return, especially if they have been keeping an eye on your home, so they are not startled that there is movement at the residence.
You will want to contact and notify the post office, utility department, power company, cable/internet provider, alarm company, and any subscription services of your Florida mailing address if you have those services and plan on receiving mail or service at your Florida residence.
Since your residence has been vacant, you should inspect both the interior and exterior of your property for any damages, items that need to be repaired, or evidence of any water leaks or intrusion. More specifically, inspect all windows and doors to determine if there are gaps and/or cracks that need to be caulked or sealed. As relevant, check the flashing around chimneys and vents for any damage or water penetration. If necessary, have gutters and downspouts cleaned and/or repaired. Make sure all debris from any roofs have not damaged the roof and have been removed so the rain will continue to drain off the residence.
Make notes or a checklist of items that need to be repaired, cleaned, or otherwise maintained. If your residence is a condominium unit or townhome that contains portions that the association is required to maintain, ensure that you promptly notify the association’s community association manager or board if you notice any damage to property maintained by the association. Even if you have had someone visit the residence regularly, it is possible that they missed some damage/necessary repairs.
Perform a check of all your appliances, as well as the electrical outlets, to make sure they appear to remain in good condition. Plug them back in and turn them back on to ensure they are working properly.
After you have inspected the property for any potential water leaks or intrusion, turn the water back on and perform an inspection of all pipes to ensure that there are no leaks. Return the refrigerator and freezer back to the temperature you like for keeping your food cold and turn any ice maker back on.
Perform a check of all light fixtures for evidence of any issues, turn on the lights to ensure they are working, and replace any bulbs or fixtures, as necessary. Check to make sure all locks and entry points have not been compromised, and if you have an alarm system, you may want to run a system check to make sure that it continues to work properly. Conduct a review of your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to confirm that they remain in working condition, and replace any batteries or otherwise repair them as necessary. If needed, change the air conditioning filter, have the HVAC line cleaned, or contact your air conditioning service provider to schedule an appointment for same.
If there is a fireplace in your home, the flue will need to be opened back up, and it may need to be cleaned before it is first used.
Check your pool even if you had a service caring for it. If the chemicals could not defeat the Florida heat and it has a green tinge to it, it will need to be treated and/or cleaned. Also, make sure that the pool pump is in good working order.
Walk your yard and inspect the grass and all landscaping for insect, heat, or drought damage. Run all your sprinklers to make sure that they are working and no sprinkler heads need replacing. Remove and replace any plants, flowers, or ground cover that did not survive the summer temperatures or drought. Once the heat of summer has ended, consider feeding your lawn, shrubs, and plants with any fertilizer or other types of plant food/nutrition to help in their survival. Inspect any fences and gates to the yard for holes, and complete any necessary repairs, cleaning, or maintenance.
If you return after the end of hurricane season, November 30, then remove any hurricane shutters that were installed. If you return prior to November 30, it is still hurricane season, so make sure you have hurricane supplies (i.e., water, ice, shelf-stable food and drinks, batteries, flashlights and/or lanterns, and a weather radio.) If you have a generator, make sure that it is in working condition and that you have any necessary gas and/or oil to run it.
If you have not established a primary care physician in Florida, you should do so. If you have a Florida physician, determine whether an appointment is necessary to bring your physician up to speed on any changes in your health. If any ongoing care is required with a specialist, ensure that you locate and establish a relationship with a specialist in Florida. Bring any prescriptions with you and/or confirm with a local pharmacy that it has your prescription history and is able to fill any prescriptions you may need.
Remember to pack any important documents that are essential in case of emergency or simply to help clear up any of those little life problems that can arise anywhere. This includes insurance policies (health, life, home, car, and any other insurance you have), medical history, and anything relating to your home and your home away from home, including leases and utility/power company information. Also make sure you have your bank card, credit cards, checkbook, and any other financial documentation. You may need to inform your credit card companies and bank that you will be in Florida to avoid any fraud alerts or denied transactions due to relocating.
And last but certainly not least, check your community’s social calendar for any upcoming events for which you may want to volunteer to assist in planning or preparing, or if you simply want to attend and reconnect with your neighbors and friends. Perhaps you want to reach out to the manager or board to volunteer for other committees or activities, or to see if you can assist the community in any way that pleases you. Or perhaps you want to simply rest and enjoy your time in your Florida home. Any way you like to be part of the community, we are glad to have you back!
Robyn M. Severs
Robyn M. Severs represents community association clients throughout Florida’s northeast region. She has significant experience representing and assisting condominium and homeowners associations in a wide variety of legal areas, including document review, document drafting, turnover of association control, reserve funding, and maintenance issues. Robyn also handles community association bankruptcy cases and appellate cases that include some notable decisions. Ms. Severs is also one of only 190 attorneys statewide who is a board certified specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law. For more information, visit www.beckerlawyers.com.