Community & Homeowner Association Q&A: Hurricane Preparation Part II

Question: Many of our owners are away for the summer, but have furniture and plants on their balconies. Can the Association clear the balconies and patios as a part of the Community Associations’ hurricane preparation if there is a storm coming?

Answer: Removing an owner’s belongings from the balcony or patio creates some potentially serious liability for the Association, which it does not otherwise have.

If you put furniture or plants inside the unit, you risk an owner claim that there is damage from scraping, or from water, to carpet, flooring, and so on.

Then, there is the possible owner claim that you damaged the furnishings, particularly if they are not new.

Having someone in the unit/home while the owner is away can also give rise to owner claims that belongings were stolen during the process.

Finally, who will move the furniture? Whether you use Association employees or volunteers, there is a risk of physical injury incurred during the clearing of the furnishings and plants.

An alternative is to adopt rules regarding required preparation of outside areas for hurricane season, if the owners are going to be away in the summer months. This would include clearing the balcony or patio of all furnishings and anything else. It could also require that the Association or a trusted friend or family member have the keys to any vehicles left on the premises while the owners are away, in case the vehicles have to be moved for emergency purposes. Then, the liability for consequential damage if an owner does not comply still rests solely with that owner.

Ellen Hirsch de Haan, Esq.

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