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Florida Condo & HOA Legal Blog News & Updates on Condo & HOA Laws & Legislation in the State of Florida

Tropical Storm Debby Floods Florida – State of Emergency Declared

Posted in Insurance

Condominium Boards need to activate disaster plans.  May exercise emergency powers while the State of Emergency is in effect. Reports indicate that more than 20 inches of rain fell on parts of Florida.  Property owners will have to contend with roof leaks, water extraction, damages from the many tornadoes and sink holes.  Now is the time for impacted condominium and homeowners’ association directors to activate those disaster plans and take advantage of the emergency powers in the Condominium Act. Section 718.1265, Florida Statutes says if a state of emergency is declared where the condominium is located:

  • The board can, prohibit unit owners, family members, tenants or guests from entering the condominium property upon advice of emergency management officials or licensed professionals. (i.e. the condo is unsafe for one reason or another)
  • The board can require residents to evacuate in the event of a mandatory evacuation order. (However, this is difficult to enforce.)
  • The board can authorize removal and disposal of wet drywall, insulation, carpet, cabinetry, or other fixtures on or within the condominium property.
  • The board can levy special assessments without approval of the unit owners.
  • The board can even borrow money and pledge association assets without prior unit owner approval.
  • The purpose of this law is to give boards flexibility to handle the immediate needs of the condo – once the state of emergency expires (for that area) the emergency powers expire as well.

Floods seem to be causing the most damage, although according to US News, more than 30,000 Floridians have already lost power and Tallahassee.com found storm surges at high tide on the Apalachee Bay to Waccasassa Bay (near the Crystal River) were three to five feet above ground level. Sink Hole Claims: The impact of last year’s amendment to  Section 627.706, Florida Statutes will likely become known as a result of this storm.  The law allows insurance carriers to limit sinkhole loss coverage to the principal building, as defined in the applicable policy, not the ancillary structures or improvements. The 2011 property and casualty insurance bill made the following changes:

  • Sinkhole coverage is limited to structural damage for primary buildings.
  • The term “structural damage” is narrowly defined to minimize frivolous claims.
  • The window for filing hurricane and windstorm claims is reduced from five to three years after a storm.
  • The window for filing sinkhole claims is reduced from five years to three years.
  • Insurers may withhold full payment for a claim until policyholders sign a contract for repairs, and the repairs are made, except for homes that are destroyed.

For helpful tips on what to do immediately, contracting and engineering after the storm and insurance claims handling, please visit our Disaster Recovery page. Avoid the Pitfalls of Post Disaster Recovery: Did you know that, in the aftermath of a casualty, the primary pitfalls, which can lead to post-disaster litigation, are:

  • Disputes between the insurance carriers [flood, wind, casualty] and the Association over the nature and extent of insurance coverage.
  • Suits against community associations and their boards over the mismanagement of insurance proceeds.
  • Claims of contractors, sub-contractors, materialmen and suppliers, who were not paid by the general contractors, resulting in the Association having to pay double, because of its failure to comply with Florida’s Construction Lien Law; and
  • Suits against contractors and subcontractors over poor quality repairs.

Our Firm prepared these educational resources to help community leaders and professional managers deal with the myriad of issues during a crisis.   Please refer to them when it is safe to do so. The board can contract for debris removal without bids.

  • Winifred S Griffiths

    I have a Manufactured home in a Co-op in St Petersburg. We have a Manager who does not walk the property to check on homes after storm activity, we do not have any Evacuation procedures in place for the many Elderly and infirm Seniors who relied mainly on the Maintenance person for assistance the Manager also would rely on the Maintenance man to inform her, of any break ins or damage to units, that he came upon However i have recently found out that he has resigned, due to the President & Board Members adding the duties of the Lawn service to him on top of his pool cleaning and many other tasks involved to maintain the Park. They terminated the Contract with the Lawn Service who used a Road Sweeper on top of many Lawnmowers plus many personnel to keep the |Park maintained in the Past, the Board did not notify in writing to the shareholders who are not Resident year round of these major changes , they are fully aware that the Manager is remiss in her duty ,and i am concerned that when i return to my home that i maybe facing damage due to Tree limbs falling or flooding. or looting , The majority of the Senior Members of the Board & President, are Seasonal However i am concerned that the situation has left the entire Park in a very vulnerable position, should we sustain any major damage. What recourse would i & others, have against the Board of Directors , for failing to ensure the Safety of property during this state of Emergency