From time to time, homeowners associations and condominiums suffer physical assault, whether from weather or other natural phenomena. The more attention that is given in advance, the more likely it is that damage may be averted and recovery will proceed smoothly.
Valerie Hoover excerpts from an article in the Florida Community Association Journal:
Though the costs and health issues have not diminished, mold is an issue that has faded into the background, according to Valerie Hoover with Sentry Management. “People are not paying attention anymore because they’re just thinking of hurricanes,” she observes. “The first thing we try to do is be pro-active. Once there is a report of any kind of water or sewer leak, the key is immediate attention to start the drying out process. Some associations require thermostats to be set at a certain temperature to prevent mold growth, which we recommend, especially in communities with seasonal residents.”
With mold remediation, as with other restoration activities, Hoover has found that it is best to establish good relationships with multiple companies in case other customers in the area are affected at the same time. “Before Hurricane Charley we only had one go-to company. When we had the disaster, they had spread themselves so thin that they had to respond to hospitals, schools, etc., before anyone else. Now we are on the preferred list with several companies since we’ve learned not to put all our eggs in one basket. Companies you’ve been using through the years are the ones that will be there for you when there’s a bigger disaster—that we’ve learned!”
Flooding is only part of the buffet of damage wrought by a hurricane, with its onslaught of wind and water. Preparing for this Florida threat should be a routine part of everyday life, affecting maintenance, renovations, finances, communication, and more.
Hoover observes, “Often an association has prepared a plan years ago, but it has not been updated. When reminded, they too often defer it to ‘next year.’ Even though the management company has a plan, individual associations need to keep looking at areas that are vulnerable and update plans in advance for any elderly or handicapped who need help, current photos to show what was destroyed, and contacts for communication. You need to document anything you can.
Hoover advises, “Be prepared to pay any service provider you will need for immediate services—to remove trees, board up the building, put on a temporary roof, etc. The contractors are going to go first to those who can pay now, not six months down the road. You need cash immediately to get providers in to help you. Whether it’s adding a reserve line item for the deductible, getting a line of credit from a bank, or a combination, that needs to be planned out in advance so you’re not scrambling to pay vendors to get work done. You’ll keep getting put at the bottom of the list because they don’t know when they’ll get paid.”
Hoover points out, “The insurance company’s adjuster won’t push to give you more than they have to. A third-party adjuster is probably working for a percentage of the claim, so it’s in her interest to identify all needed repairs.”
Disaster preparedness is an ongoing cycle of planning, implementation, communication, maintenance, cultivation of relationships, evaluation, and updating everyone involved regularly. To boards and managers, Hoover advises, “No matter how long you’ve been on the board or had your CAM license, go to a seminar on disaster preparedness whenever you can. You can always learn something new. To me, you can’t ever know too much in order to be prepared.” Preparation may not prevent a disaster, but you may dodge a significant amount of damage and distress.
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