In the midst of hurricane season, preparing for a storm is a priority for many associations whose properties may be affected by hurricanes. A building’s structural integrity alone doesn’t guarantee safety from hurricane damage; even the soundest structure can suffer significant damage.
In 2021, hurricanes caused over $70 billion in damage in the United States, which is the fourth most costly hurricane season on record. Unfortunately, many hurricane damages are uninsured. With the potential of such costly losses, what can you do should your association sustain damage in a hurricane event? And will it be properly covered?
- Review Your Coverage Now
Don’t wait until a storm strikes to go over your HOA’s insurance policy. As a board, take the time to review your current policy each year before hurricane season begins so there is no question as to what will be covered. Make sure that your coverage is enough to fund repairs and replacements.
Check the requirements in your association’s governing documents as well as state law, reassessing your policy plans as necessary. Consulting your attorney and insurance carrier can be helpful in determining your needed level of coverage.
In addition to having adequate general liability and property insurance, flood insurance is also important if your association is at a higher risk. You can review your risk level here.
Building your reserve account is also vital, as well as conducting a reserve study to determine how much funding you’d need in case of disaster. You’ll have time to determine any required adjustments based on the current needs and conditions of the association.
Additionally, it’s important to communicate with your insurance agency to understand how to properly make claims and expedite the process of repairing any damage sustained to homeowners’ or the association’s property. This time spent preparing ahead of time is well worth the effort to avoid confusion and delay after a hurricane hits.
- Document the Property
At the beginning of each hurricane season, the property management or association board members should take photographs and video of all of the public areas of the association property, especially roofs and windows.
Also, store digital copies of all photos and videos on a few different devices to ensure they aren’t lost and remain easily accessible. It’s important to timestamp documentation, showcasing how property looked before and after the storm. If damage occurs and a claim needs to be filed, these images could play an important role in receiving complete and quick payment on your claims.
Regularly inspect the common areas and amenities for any hazards. Conducting regular maintenance as needed, such as clearing pipes and drainage areas as well as trimming and removing dead limbs from trees, can help mitigate damage.
- Make a Plan
Having a plan in place in the event of a hurricane can make all the difference when disaster strikes. Your management company can help, too.
By establishing standard protocols, evacuation plans, and emergency contacts ahead of time, board members and employees will know what to expect and how to react. Make sure that incoming board members are quickly informed about this emergency plan so that everyone is on the same page.
HOA boards may consider appointing a hurricane committee, on which members are assigned specific duties such as facilitating information to residents, documenting and filing claims, and hiring and communicating with contractors as they make needed repairs.
Ensure important documents are easily accessible and that association records and data are properly backed up. It’s also crucial to review the emergency plan each year and update it, as needed.
- Educate Residents
Associations should consider developing and distributing an annual hurricane preparation policy to residents. Share the association’s policy with owners, along with helpful reminders like an essential items checklist and any relevant city or county resources.
To minimize damage to their properties and the association, residents should be reminded to prepare for hurricane season by taking their own photos and videos or their property, securing outdoor furniture and ensuring that all shutters, windows, and storm doors are operational. Most importantly, a hurricane preparation policy should remind or require that homeowners maintain or obtain their own insurance policies to cover personal property inside their homes.
It’s also important to inform residents about current weather conditions and local government updates. Communication is crucial and designating a spokesperson for the association will ensure that information shared is uniform and consistent.
Don’t be caught unprepared to deal with damage to your association in the event of a hurricane. A few simple preparations will give your association and its residents the best chance of a quick and trouble-free recovery from whatever the storm may bring. For more helpful resources, visit ready.gov.
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