By James Bourassa / Published May 2023
Preparing for hurricane season presents the property management business with unique challenges. Therefore, proper and extensive planning is paramount. One of the critical criteria when making preparations is strategic planning. This involves planning not only before the storm but after it. Essential questions include the following:
If a storm is impending, boards and management staff 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, certified copies of the insurance policies, 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.
Don’t forget the importance of verifying that all insurance policies are in order. Hurricane Ian gave southwest Floridians, in particular, plenty of reasons to leave. Lives were lost, countless homes and businesses were destroyed, area waterways were turned into toxic soups, and $50 to $65 billion in damages resulted. Unfortunately, as residents and business owners assessed the devastation, they learned that insurance policies did not cover all of their losses. Given the unsteadiness of Florida’s insurance market today, as many precautions as possible should be taken ahead of time to prevent headaches on the back end.
For any communities in evacuation zones that may be in the path of a major hurricane, the board of directors and property management should prepare for the 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.
Other essential preparation items include ensuring shutters are labeled and all hardware and necessary tools are accounted for; securing items that may become “missiles,” such as outdoor furniture and umbrellas, decorations, and potted plants; turning off pool and irrigation pumps; trimming trees; and verifying that any needed generators are ready for use.
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.
One of the first steps for associations to take will be to document the damage. Taking photos from several different angles and perspectives is a good start, and video recordings documenting the damage throughout the affected areas are also very helpful. This should be done before any repairs or cleanup, including installing tarps to prevent further water intrusion.
For roof damage, associations should be very cautious and avoid walking on roofs that have been impacted. Some insurers may attempt to demonstrate that the 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, consider using a drone to take aerial videos.
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 the damage firsthand, so it is best to avoid tossing 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 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 claims process and provide guidance and representation from the initial filing to the last payout.
Associations should be cautious when hiring a contractor. Many unsavory contractors are, unfortunately, looking to take advantage of distressed communities. Take the appropriate measures to verify that they are legitimate.
The most effective way to combat the inevitable likelihood that a community will experience a major storm is to plan effectively and strategically.
Vice President of Property Management
In 2009 James joined the Seacrest family. James served as a community association manager, primarily handling gated HOA communities. James dedicated himself to providing the highest level of service to his community’s board of directors and residents. In May of 2018, James was promoted to the position of regional director and brought his strong work ethic, professionalism, and customer service experience to his new role. As a regional director James continued his growth and knowledge of the industry as well as the art of negotiations, diplomacy, relationships, and leadership. In March of 2022, James was named director of property management. In March of 2023, James was promoted to vice president of property management. For more information, visit seacrestservices.com.