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Helpful Tips for Hurricane Preparedness and Prudent HOA Management

Preparing for a natural disaster like a hurricane is essential to HOA management in North Carolina and South Carolina. Hurricanes involve various hazards, including high winds and rains and wind gusts from outer bands that can cause tornadoes to occur. During hurricanes flying debris also presents a dangerous hazard. How these hazards can impact a homeowner association depends on various variables. This requires Associations and their Board to be diligent in their preparation, organizing, and communication. Right thinking leads to right behavior.

Hurricane Preparedness and HOA Management

To be prepared, ensure the following:

[if !supportLists]1. [endif]Secure Video and/or Photo Evidence. Take date-stamping video and or date-stamped photos of your physical property (buildings and structures), furnishings, and equipment as evidence for pre-storm and post-storm conditions.

[if !supportLists]2. [endif]Perform Inspections by Professionals. Before hurricane season, have a roofer or general contractor review the condition of common area roofs, buildings, and structures to make necessary repairs. Be sure roof tiles are secure, update caulking, and other roof elements (such as rooftop flashing) are maintained. Take pictures so you can verify lost tiles, air–conditioning unit damage, and so forth.

[if !supportLists]3. [endif]Budget Properly for Reserve Planning. Plan to fully fund the general reserves. Otherwise, you may need to arrange for an emergency line of credit (as a final option) in the event reserves are inadequate to use for storm repairs.

[if !supportLists]4. [endif]Include Debris Cleanup in Landscaper Contracts. Include pre-negotiated debris removal pricing in your landscaper contracts. This will ensure you have a contractor secured to perform the work at a negotiated fair price before the need arises.

[if !supportLists]5. [endif]Pre-Negotiate Post Storm Repairs With Contractors. Pre-negotiate with a general contractor (and engineer if necessary) to review the common area buildings and structures, and perform necessary post storm repairs to avoid having to scramble to find reliable licensed contractors following a storm. This will help control costs.

[if !supportLists]6. [endif]Develop an Emergency Preparedness Policy. Adopt an emergency preparedness policy and plan to assist members of the Association. Consider a list of provisions homeowners should have in their possession, including their Social Security card, passport, credit cards, proof of residency (electric bill or driver's license), insurance policies, prescriptions, photos of property, furnishings, personal property, and equipment, water, non-perishable food, vehicles filled with fuel, flashlights with batteries, propane, candles, and an operational and well–maintained generator. Also include emergency authorities contact information (fire, police, ambulance), Board members contact information, social media communications, broadcast emails, etc. and notify owners when it's safe to return to the community, in the event mandatory evacuations have occurred. Various free resources exists to guide a Board without cost, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other governmental agencies. These resources may provide a basic template of a plan. Contact your county emergency management agency and local police and fire departments for further input and they will likely have information to provide you. There may also be structural elements requiring an engineer’s involvement.

[if !supportLists]7. [endif]Develop a Punch List for Emergency HOA Preparedness. Consider including in the emergency preparedness policy and plan a punch list or “to do list” to include tasks such as having the pool contractor turn off pool pumps, move elevators to higher floors, and to avoid flash floods place sand bags (or trash bags filled with sand) around all doors and elevators to prevent water intrusion and flooding, and inform members of building closings and re-openings.

[if !supportLists]8. [endif]Budget for Erosion Repairs and Improvements. Ensure adequate budgeting and maintenance for proper erosion control, storm water runoff, and culvert maintenance to ensure proper repairs and improvements are performed to avoid or prevent erosion damages, and saturation and flooding of roads.

[if !supportLists]9. [endif]Regularly Review Insurance Policies. Before hurricane season, review your insurance policy with both your insurance agent and attorney to verify your community association’s coverage limits, deductible responsibilities, and to remove any gaps in protecting buildings, structures, and equipment 100%.

After a hurricane, distinguish what is most important from urgent demands by considering the following:

[if !supportLists]1. [endif]Damage Control. Take the urgent steps needed to secure buildings from further water intrusion and damage, and dry them out as soon as possible to avoid fungi intrusion and remove debris. However, if standing water exists always consult a professional and have them perform remedial assistance once its safe. Avoid walking in flood waters. Sewer, chemicals, and dead diseased animals trapped in flood waters may carry communicable disease or cause infections, especially in open wounds. Underground electrical lines may pose an electrocution hazard, and only six inches of moving water can cause you to lose your balance. You cannot normally see what lies beneath the waters. Avoid driving in a flood too. One foot of moving water can cause your vehicle to get washed away.

[if !supportLists]2. [endif]Bid Processes. Follow the ordinary process of inviting vendors, compiling bids, and properly vetting contractors, not allowing the circumstances and demands of homeowners to dictate to you. The most sought after, high quality contractors and consultants are often in short supply in the aftermath of a disaster. It is prudent to hold out for the quality contractor you would hire for a non-emergency repair than to settle for an unlicensed or out of state contractor. Consider making this ordinary bid process procedure a component of your emergency preparedness policy in the event a contractor was not able to be pre-negotiated or is unavailable due to castastrophic conditions and travel delays.

[if !supportLists]3. [endif]Legal Counsel. Have your attorney review contracts before signing and hiring the right professionals due to storm damage. Avoid signing a full repair contract with a single contractor and assigning a contractor your insurance benefits under pressure, without taking the ordinary steps you would prudently take when hiring a vendor to perform work to your Association. Avoid relying solely on the insurance company's adjuster to evaluate your claim. The insurance company's adjuster is not there to protect you and your association's claim. Your board needs to consult with your association counsel who will assist you in retaining your own adjuster and/or engineer or architect to fully evaluate and compile your claim. All of the foregoing professionals can help ensure that your insurance company maximizes rather than minimizes your anticipated recovery.

[if !supportLists]4. [endif]Member Communication. Hopefully you have up to date contact information for most of your members. Use websites, emails, texts, phone calls and first class mail as important communication options to keep your members informed about the conditions of buildings, structures, and roads. Those communications will help inform your residents when they can safely return to their homes, when to expect repair work to commence, etc. Keep in mind that Boards that fail to properly communicate in the aftermath of a disaster don't tend to fare well at the next annual election. Consequently, an emergency preparedness policy and proof of consistent and informative communications can defuse a potentially negligence claim levied against your board.

[if !supportLists]5. [endif]Learning Opportunities. Learn from your mistakes and oversights. Whatever problems, deficiencies, or inefficiencies you discovered dealing with a hurricane should result in the development and improvements of your hurricane plan for the following year.

Concluding Remarks

Homeowner associations that prepare for inclement weather will normally see better results than those who do not plan. The Board should review its emergency plan once a year, prior to hurricane season and each time insurance policies are changed. Consider placing this task on the Board’s annual spring calendar. Discuss the emergency preparedness plan at your annual meeting to gather input of the members on what they expect from the Board and management in the event of a hurricane. Have county emergency management teams, police and fire departments, advise the Board and to make presentations at the annual meeting. Planning will assist in minimizing mistakes and damages, as well as organizing for better response and controlling costs.

For more information visit our web page at or contact us at: Support@CambridgeHOAPropertyManagement or by calling us at 704-874-1820 or 844.612.1515. Cambridge Management Group, LLC is a professional, full service, HOA management company. Come home to a better HOA management experience.

Copyright © 2017 by Cambridge Management Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as offering legal advice or insurance advice. For legal advice, seek the counsel of a competent attorney specializing in Community Association Law on matters pertaining to your state and community. For insurance advice, seek the counsel of a licensed insurance agent.

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