Ask the Expert: Severe Storm Recovery
Having trouble navigating storm recovery?
Texas associations see their fair share of severe weather incidents and recovery efforts every year. Whether in relation to tornadoes, hurricanes, high winds, flooding or fire, knowing how to align your board to handle recovery efforts is vital. It can be a minefield, especially when dealing with the deluge of resident inquiries that come with any atypical situation in your community. Questions like:
- Who is responsible for condo water damage?
- Will my association face lawsuits after a storm?
- How should our board communicate recovery efforts?
Watch this episode of Ask the Expert for a legal take on how to recover from severe storms, relevant state laws, insurance and liabilities, led by Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey (RMWBH) attorneys and shareholders, Leah K. Burton and Brady Ortego.
Get answers to severe storm recovery and legal issues in this video:
What takes precedence: governing documents or local & state statutes?
Start with your governing documents to review the owner's lot responsibility and the association's obligation to common areas. It's important to know the year your building was established and follow the laws accordingly when it comes to condos. Pre-1984: Property Code Chapter 81 | Post 1984: Property Code Chapter 82
What should boards expect during recovery? How can they mitigate potential litigation?
The best advice is to report all claims, including photo and video evidence, immediately. Mitigation is also something that should take place quickly after the storm to prevent additional risk. Make sure that you are documenting every communication, even screenshots of texts or responses on social media.
Is it important to go through a bidding process for fully vetted contractors?
Absolutely. This process should be calculated and properly measured. While there will be pressure to fix units quickly, communities should be aware of "disaster chasers," or contractors, who offer deals for money up front only to never complete the job. To that end, going over vendor contracts with your legal counsel is important to make sure your board is protected and has a way to address sub-par or incomplete work.
What's the best way to disclose information about ongoing recovery efforts?
Communication, particularly when it comes to disaster scenarios. The most important factor is making sure your message is consistent and uniform, including a repair process overview. Even if you communicate that there aren't any updates, "no information is still communication."
What could our board be overlooking?
The need for a disaster plan, and the best time to plan for one is when you're not dealing with the aftermath. In other words, it's not a matter of if, but when. All associations need to have a solid emergency plan at the ready. It's also a good idea to have trusted vendors on retainer to quickly help during recovery. Ask your management partner if you have a maintenance matrix. This documents a cross-referenced list of all building systems and feautres, common areas and amenities, lists which party (association or resident) is responsible for repairs, and lists pre-vetted contractors for each if repair or replacement is needed. Make sure to finalize this document in partnership with your management company, insurance broker and legal counsel.
FirstService Residential Ask the Expert webinar miniseries aims to answer the most frequently asked questions of associations throughout Texas on a variety of key topics. To get more information or submit a topic for our next Ask the Expert video, contact us at LetsTalk-TX@fsresidential.com.