It’s Always Better to Be Ready

It’s Always Better to Be Ready

By Marnie Dale Ragan, Esq. / Published July 2024

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Cat 5, the eye, cone of uncertainty, and hurricane party.

     These phrases can have varying effects, instilling fear or the misguided belief that a storm is a reason to celebrate. No matter the type of Floridian that you are, these words are familiar, and it is that time of year once again. From June 1 through November 30, Florida will once again experience hurricane season—the time of year that we believe weather reporters love the most, with unlimited airtime and a fine line drawn between forecasting and inciting fear.

     Regardless of whether you are the type to stock up with groceries and batteries or hope for a few days off work, there are some things that all owners—especially those owners in community associations—should make sure were addressed prior to June 1 and throughout the season.

     Preparation in a community association is the responsibility of all, but many of the tasks will fall to management and the board of directors.

     If you are a member of the board of directors or are in management, an important part of your job is to safeguard the association’s property. This can be completed by creating a clear and concise policy and strategy to address year-round preparation as well as imminent storm safeguards and post-storm action plans. On an annual basis, contract with vendors and ensure that there are storm provisions included while understanding the limitations of their resources and that it may take time for them to reach your property. Account for storm preparation in contracts and identify any additional costs that may be incurred for such preparation and stoppage of work.

     With respect to general operations, the board and management should ensure that all contact information for residents, not just owners, is up to date, including names, addresses, and phone numbers or email addresses. Make sure that all of the association’s records, and most importantly insurance information, is stored safely and in watertight containers; and it is recommended that they also be maintained virtually if at all possible.

     Before the storm have management and the board obtain a short list of contacts, including insurance adjusters, utilities information, attorneys, and landscapers for debris removal. Make sure these contacts are available to all board members and management to allow for a quick post-storm implementation of the cleanup plan. The board and management should review the insurance policy of the property to understand what may or may not be covered as a result of storm damage as well as to understand the deductible amount.

     An annual inventory of the property, with video and photographs, should be taken prior to hurricane season in order for the association to have demonstrative evidence of the condition of the property. This will be helpful when addressing insurance claims. This evidence should also be stored in a safe and dry location.

     The association should undertake pre-storm maintenance seriously, engaging landscapers to keep trees trimmed and healthy as well as reviewing all drainage avenues to make sure that there are no obstructions that would inhibit water from flowing away from the property as quickly as possible. Any generators on the property should be routinely tested. Residents should be encouraged to take similar actions to safeguard information and property and should be sure to have necessary supplies available, especially medical supplies if applicable, in the event of an evacuation or loss of power.

     When a storm is imminent, the emergency plan should be implemented. All outdoor furniture should be secured as well as any other items that could become flying projectiles. Shutters should be utilized if they are maintained at the property. Make sure supplies are accounted for, especially those that are utilized when there is no electricity. Residents should be advised of the association’s plan for the storm, and residents should be directed to heed local authority dictates, including the requirement to evacuate. Evacuation orders apply to residents and staff, and residents should understand that if they do not heed evacuation orders, staff will not be on the property during the storm and will only return once the authorities permit access.

     Once the storm has passed and the property can be accessed—or remotely if necessary—the board of directors can meet on an emergency basis to begin implementing post-storm plans and contacting vendors as needed, whether for debris removal or other necessary repairs. Insurance agents and other professionals can be contacted as needed. Once the property can be accessed safely, any damage should be documented in order to support claims. The association can utilize its contact list or website to provide updates to residents and owners, advising of the condition of the property as well as the activities of the association to restore the property.

     While many of the tasks are intended for the association, owners should follow suit. Personal insurance for the contents of your unit should be maintained, and those documents should be in a secure place as well as the cloud. Have sufficient goods stocked, including medicine, batteries, flashlights, and food that will not spoil in the event of a power outage. Do not forget about your animals; they will also have needs. Have a plan in place as to where you may go in the event of an evacuation, and make sure to do your research in the event you have pets. Take stock of the contents of your unit, document its condition prior to and after a storm to support an insurance claim, and heed the guidance of the association and local authorities, especially with respect to evacuation orders.

     In the end, it is the hope that all of the preparation is not ever put into action, but it is always better to be ready. As always, an association should consult their legal counsel for more tips and specific recommendations for the property.

Marnie Dale Ragan

Senior Partner, Haber Law

     Marnie Dale Ragan is a senior partner with Haber Law and is board certified in condominium and planned development law. Admitted to the bar in April 2001, she has practiced in the area of community association law for over 20 years. Her focus includes general association operations, drafting and amending governing documents, planning and writing documents for new developments from inception to recording, revising and restating documents for existing associations, writing opinion letters on various issues, undertaking complex research for issues of first impression in communities in anticipation of litigation, reviewing and creating contracts for various association needs, undertaking covenant enforcement, and attending and running board of director and membership meetings. For more information, email or visit