Planning for a rainy day is pretty easy. Have an extra umbrella handy, or a waterproof coat, and you’re probably fine. On the other hand, planning for the rainiest day ever is significantly more daunting – especially if during the deluge there’s also a fire, an earthquake, or a tornado. But these are possibilities that every community association must face in order to ensure that residents can weather any storm – literal or figurative. Protecting lives – and property value – to the best of its ability is the duty of every board, and that’s why an association should have a plan ready in the event of an emergency.
Better Safe Than Sorry
In some places, including Florida, statute doesn’t dictate exactly what an association must plan for when it comes to emergencies. Of course, this doesn’t give a board carte blanche to kick back and wish bad weather away; a board still has a fiduciary duty to protect its property and residents.
“While there’s no statutory requirement for either condominium or HOA to have an emergency disaster plan,” says Joshua Gerstin of Boca Raton-based law firm Gerstin & Associates, “pursuant to Florida’s Condominium Act and its Homeowners Association Act, a community association’s primary role is to protect and maintain the common areas and operate the association for the health, safety, comfort, and general welfare of the unit owners. Implied within that statutory role is protecting the common areas, owners and equipment from disasters. Although an emergency disaster plan is not required by law, should something go awry during an emergency that could have been avoided, or the damage mitigated, the lack of a coherent emergency disaster plan could be considered when determining whether the association acted negligently.”
So it’s in the association’s best interests to be ready for an emergency, even if the law isn’t breathing down its back. Shari Wald Garrett, an associate at the law firm of Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars, and Sobel, P.A., which has offices in Plantation, Coral Gables and West Palm Beach, offers the following suggestions to associations, noting that these are not all-inclusive:
• create an emergency to-do list and a preparedness plan