Alan Tanenbaum, Esq.:
So I'm Alan Tanenbaum, and I'm here with my partner Jon Lemole. Cindy Hill, who is our third got called away at an emergency meeting. So you're just going to be hearing from Jon and myself today. And the subject of today's episode is Hurricane Ian's Legacy: It's Not Too Early To Start Preparing Your Association For The Next Big One. So we've got a lot of calls in the last few weeks. We're currently in Osprey, Florida, which is in the mid to southern part of Sarasota County. We've been hearing a lot from groups to the south of us in various stage of distress.
We heard their immediate issues and prize for help. We have been helping them work through their hurricane claims, their issues with their owners, a lot of confusion and a lot of stress. And we are pretty attuned to procedures and processes for groups that have done well in the face of enormous problems and groups that are not handling their issues quite as well. And we've developed this program today, which is to provide some tips for all associations based upon our experience in the last few weeks about things that probably should be cleaned up now, procedures that should be adopted now thinking that should be done at this juncture. So, Jon, if you can go to that first slide.
I'm not sure which storm this was. I think this was, yes, this was the recent one. And if you recall, when the storm was north of South America and south of the island, we were all under a threat. Nobody knew exactly where the storm was going to hit. And based upon the projections of the last couple of days, they really blew the forecast pretty substantially. I can recall a couple days before the storm hit in southwest Florida, one of the main predictions was it was going to be a category one storm hitting in the Tallahassee panhandle area. And what happened obviously is while it was a much stronger storm and stronger than they predicted, it made its turn to the east and surprised a lot of people in Collier Lee and Charlotte counties especially who many of whom were not prepared for what occurred. But one of the first things that we're going to talk about are the documents.
So with condos it's pretty basic. Under the statute it's pretty well defined what are common elements, there's some confusion about limited common elements and for some groups, but it's pretty obvious that the association for the most part is responsible for the common elements. The owners are responsible for their interiors from basically the drywall inward. Sometimes where there's some confusion after storm is whether there's interior unit damage, who's responsible to do the immediate cleanup, who needs to get in there and do the dry in, and so forth. I think what most condo associations do is despite what the documents say, they may get a remediation contractor in right away to do the dry out and then work on the common element issues. That's not the larger problem. The larger problem is in the world of multi-family homeowner associations talking about villas, duplexes, triplexes, and quads.
A really big problem. Number one, there's confusion about what a villa or a duplex owner or a quad owner is responsible for. Some of the documents look like condo documents where the associate, where the HOA is responsible for everything in a multi-family unit other than what's from the drywall in. Some of them have very little maintenance responsibility for exteriors. Maybe it says that the associational paint, maybe the association will be doing roof maintenance but not replacement. But there's HOA owners who do not understand those distinctions. So one of the things that could be done is really educate your owners on what those lines of distinctions are because there's a lot of confusion out there. And we recommend, and we have given presentations on this, consider amending your documents to create an intelligent maintenance and repair protocol. We have properties where there are six duplexes with a roof that spans all six units and the replacement of the roof is responsibility of the individual lot owner and the roof is destroyed across all six.
There's six insurance adjusters adjusting that claim. Maybe one of the homeowners doesn't even have insurance, maybe one of the homeowners is on a safari in Africa and not even contactable, maybe one of the homes is in an estate. How six individuals can make a decision about how they're going to replace an element is going to be going to be very difficult. And in a hurricane situation, the documents have created mass confusion. So our first point is if you're an HOA and there's any portion of your property which is multi-family and I'm including duplexes in that, think about logically from an insurability standpoint and a maintenance or repair standpoint, what's the best way to organize the maintenance and repairs so that especially at a crisis, things can be taken care of and make those adjustments by way of amendment.
And the second part is really the education, which is, I mean, we're confronting board members who don't understand their documents as far as where the line of demarcation is between the association and an owner as far as prepare who calls out the insurance adjuster, what does each of them cover? And whether it's in writing, whether it's at meetings, it's really important for the board to educate their owners because we have board members who in the face of the very difficult circumstances are dealing with basic confusion on the part of their membership about who's responsible for what. And those things need to be cleared up. So Jon, I'm going to turn it over to you. Is your association adequately insured? Why is that an issue?
Jon Lemole, Esq.:
Well, apart from the obvious, to touch on something that Alan was just saying about confusion among owners as to who's responsible for what, I think we find often that a lot of people don't understand exactly what's covered under the association's policies and in particular, unit owners or lot owners may have the biggest misunderstanding or misimpressions as to what may or may not be covered. And so that creates a lot of conflict and confusion. And so one of the most basic things that I think any association can do is to the extent that you can do that, educating your members about what might or might not be covered in a storm, what are the limits of coverage on the association's policies, what's covered in a hurricane event, what's not covered in a hurricane event? So those basic things are not a mystery to everybody. And in fact, often we see board members that may not know exactly what their insurance policies say.
So, for Ian, and in the wake of Ian, some of the biggest challenges we've seen are questions relating to coverage for water intrusion. And as a general proposition, hurricane insurance will cover water intrusion if the water intrusion is a result of storm damage. But you're all familiar with the idea of the storm having to create an opening in the building through which rain enters. Well, there's a lot of communities that weren't necessarily impacted that way and I'm going to talk about an extreme example of that in the next section that I take on, which is correcting building vulnerabilities. But associations need to understand and appreciate what water cover damage may be covered versus what water damage may not be covered because you don't want to find out after the event and have this rude awakening that some of this damage may not be fall under your insurance policies and it's going to be something that the association needs to take on.
Apart from that, there's just some generally good insurance practices that everybody on this presentation should be thinking about. Understand your deductibles. You may have great insurance and you may have a covered loss, but if the damage doesn't exceed your deductibles, again, that's another area where the association would have to appreciate what its potential financial responsibilities are after a big storm. And if you haven't discussed that and you don't have a contingency plan for that, that's going to be a big problem. So appreciating the financial or the potential financial burden of meeting deductibles should definitely factor into decisions around adequate storm contingencies. Another example is ensuring that your insurance covers up to date replacement costs. So obtain periodic insurance appraisals so you can ensure that your replacement coverage will be adequate. Finally, look, every renewal period, there's a couple of things that are going on. First of all, for those of you that just went through recently went through a renewal period, there's a huge surprise, right, because premiums went up drastically.
And some of you may have found that you weren't renewed because your carriers just not renewing certain policies in the state of Florida. But how can you impact that? I mean there are certain things that market forces that you're just not going to be able to influence to deal with or influence. But there are certain things that you can do to give your association a leg up. So this is an opportunity to be in the best position to continue to be offered insurance at as reasonable rates as you can get in consideration of the current market. So things like staying on top of maintenance and repair obligations and documenting those so that your carrier knows during renewal time that your buildings have been adequately maintained, well maintained. Believe it or not, one of the beneficial aspects that we've been talking about with regard to the safety legislation, the recent safety legislation in condo world is that this is an opportunity for buildings and condominiums that have buildings in good shape to demonstrate to their carriers with these milestone reports that, hey, our buildings are in good shape so we're a good risk.
So, when I've been talking to associations and they're upset about wondering why or how or when they're going to do these milestone inspections, and my gosh, the cost of this is going to be a burden, maybe turn that discussion and especially with your members, turn that discussion around or on its head and say, look, this is an opportunity to spend some money now, if we know that our buildings are in good shape and they've been well taken care of, this is a good opportunity for us now to spend this money, not wait because we've got a very difficult insurance market and if we've got a positive milestone report, certainly that's going to help us save money when it comes time to renew our property and casualty insurance.
So these are all just things that keep in the back of your mind that the more you document the condition of your buildings, the good condition of your buildings, you keep those buildings in good condition, that's going to provide you with the best coverage at the most affordable rates that the market can offer to you. So all of those things will put you in good stead for the next time something hits. And as I said at the beginning of this, communicate with your members so that they know that, and they have an understanding of what those policies cover as well.
Alan Tanenbaum, Esq.:
Jon, a couple points. Obviously, the flood insurance is going to cover the storm surges. Your liability and property coverage has more to do with the impact of wind and wind driven rain. So don't get those confused. Both are very necessary to have the coverages. And the first thing that the wind policies argue in defense is that it was a water and a storm surge event, it wasn't a wind event. And then the store federal flood insurance program will sometimes contend that it was a wind event and not a storm surge event. The storm surge insurance is somewhat a limited coverage, so you may have much more damage than that coverage is going to cover. Be aware of code requirements. So if a portion of a building is destroyed, the building department's going to require that you rebuild according to current code.
So if you have a condominium property where a lot of windows are blown out and you had older style windows, the replacement is going to have to be with the current hurricane resistant windows, which are much more expensive than your original configuration. So you need to have the coverage that will cover code requirements for new construction. And then obviously construction costs have gone up enormously. So if you're basing your amount of coverage based upon somebody who determined replacement costs five years ago, you're going to be way out of whack on the amount of coverage that you have. So be aware of that. Jon, let's go to the next slide, which is vendor relationships.
So needless to say, there's an extreme amount of competition right now to get capable remediators and remediation companies out to properties. If anyone noticed, and I'm sure it's much worse in Southwest Florida, I mean the amount of time that even a refuse, be it organic or otherwise, it takes for that to be all collected. You're talking about contractors that were way overburdened, and any of the remediation contractors have incredible burden right now. So what some of the remediation contractors offer is the opportunity for an ongoing relationship. So you sign onto their program and first of all they'll do an inspection of your property to assist you with locating vulnerabilities, things that you may be able to correct in the interim. They know your units, they inspect your units, they know your property, and they will assist in documenting before storm what the issues are. But probably the more important aspect of their programs is they're now a preferred customer.
So when the storm comes, you are on their list of properties, number one, that they'll come out and potentially on their own and see how you fared. And then if they have a hundred groups that are calling them for service and you happen to be among the 30 that are on their program, they are going to give a priority to you. So have those relationships in advance. I mean, for buildings that have roofs, you should already have a relationship with the roofing company that's potentially doing your annual inspections, but you have an opportunity during the quiet time to have your list of preferred vendors. Certainly the management companies fulfill that role, and make the relationships that you're going to need in advance because if the storm comes your way next time, you're going to want the people that you're able to call and assist.
So the planning is, okay, if come next season, and I'm presuming that there's not going to be another store this season, but come next season, if a storm impacts our area like Southwest Florida was impacted this time, who are we going to call? Who do we have relationships with that are going to help us out of a major mess? And you should know who those people are, who the companies are, have the conversations, get educated on the process. Because if you're trying to do that in the midst of a crisis, obviously it's a lot more difficult. So Jon is going to talk about correcting, building and site vulnerabilities.
Jon Lemole, Esq.:
So, again, another fairly obvious thing to think about is understanding where your buildings and your site may be vulnerable to a big storm. It's not always easy to implement that though in practice. I'll give you an extreme example because this came up, this is real world stuff that we've been dealing with in our office, for example. Our firm is aware of some newer condo communities with buildings that were built with these off ridge vents. So these are attic ventilation, but they're not at the peak of the roof, they're kind of like a little bit down from the peak of the roof and it's almost like a long cover that provides the venting.
And what happened in Ian is that these vents ended up and now there was no other damage that was done by the wind or the storm, but what happened is the rain ended up going right through these vents, and I'm aware of a couple of communities where that's created a significant amount of water damage into the units inside those buildings. And that's been a real problem for these communities because of the questions about whether that's covered or not, number one. Number two, what is the association now going to have to do in terms of repairing or contributing to repairs for those units because this was a water intrusion that came through and these are condos that came through a common element in the building.
So, I'm not saying that this would have been discovered, but this is an example of a situation where if you had, or this community had done, for example a turnover, these are newer communities, if they had done a turn turnover of engineering inspection, that condition may have been found and it's correctable, at least I'm told by engineers and contractors that it's correctable. The other part of it is if it were found, it's probably a potential designer construction defect, which arguably you would have a claim back to the developer and the builder for. And so you could have dealt with that, not only understood it, discovered it, but dealt with it and perhaps obtained money back in order to correct that condition. So that's just one example of understanding the vulnerabilities in your building that may not have been obvious. I mean we can walk around our communities and say, oh, we've got some obvious things that we ought to take care of.
Everybody does that during a storm, but there may be some things that you're just not aware of. And so frequent periodically it's a good thing to just have somebody come in, a professional, do a checkup of your buildings even if you're not in under safety legislation. A periodic inspection of where your buildings may be vulnerable to a big storm event is a good thing. What are some other areas? Because we tend to think in our communities of our buildings, but we don't always think about our site conditions. Is your community itself, the neighborhood, the site, is it well prepared for the massive amount of rain and storm water drainage that it will need to handle in an event like Hurricane Ian? So take a look at your drainage ditches and your swells and your retention ponds and other retention structures.
If they're not well maintained, you may not realize because in a normal storm event they're okay, but because they haven't been well maintained in a big storm event with a massive amount of water, even if you're not in a flood zone and you don't have flood storm surge, you may have surface flooding because you haven't stayed on top of controlling erosion into your ditches and swales and stuff that gets into the drainage systems, the underground.
And so those are all an opportunity to look at your drainage maintenance program and make sure that those drainage systems are in good order. And then there's just obvious things mean how many fences did we see blown down in the storm? And I'm not even talking, I'm talking about Sarasota and Manatee County, I mean fences were down all over the place. So take a look at your fences. Are they in good repair? Trees? You may not be able to stop a tree from falling over and being blown over, but a lot of branches came down, big branches came down on trees. Are those trees clear of your buildings? If a branch falls, is it going to fall on a roof and impact that building or some other common element structure? There are things you can do landscaping wise to make sure that the damage or the loss that's probably going to occur in the storm will where you can minimize the impact as much as possible to your buildings.
So these are all just basic maintenance issues. They're sometimes overlooked, you set it and forget it or add a sight out of mind, but a storm like this is a good opportunity for you to take stock in your communities. Go around before the next one comes and say, okay, have we been proactive about maintaining areas of our property, of our site that can be potential issues if we have another big storm. And I think we're going back to Alan who's going to talk about maintaining effective communications when communications otherwise have otherwise significantly broken down or are impossible.
Alan Tanenbaum, Esq.:
Yeah, what are the things to that, to Jon's point, as horrendous as the conditions in southwest Florida were, there's a tremendous body of information that has been developed. So when you see boats that are piled up, is there a better way to attach boats to protect boats? So that type of damage doesn't occur. And there're all kinds of studies now of buildings, how they subsisted during the storm, what did well and what didn't well. So just pay attention to the literature that's going to come out and the studies that are going to come out because every storm we learn a lot. This particular storm, number one, it was a very powerful storm as far as a wind forces were concerned. It moved very slowly, so you had sustained hurricane force winds for a much longer time than may have been for a typical storm.
It's also the path that it took where the storm surge was at its greatest. So there's a tremendous amount of lessons learned in a body of information that will be developed and study that and think, well, if that came to our community, what are the things that we could do now so that we could at least mitigate some of that damage. Jon, if you can go on to communications. So days after the storm, people were still being looked for, lost cell phone communications, couldn't contact people, were they even in the state of Florida? Had they left? Really a massive effort to find people. Owners could not find their board. Some of the management companies were down, board members couldn't find their managers.
So it's a huge challenge. But years ago, what we did as a law firm is we established a line of communication with a law firm or law firms on the east coast of Florida. And here was our arrangement. If the big one hits the east coast, you can have all of your clients, all and your management and so forth, contact us over here on the West coast and we will be the repository of communications because yours have been taken out of service. And we had the same arrangement in case form hit over here.
But if you think about it, the same arrangements can be made for condo and homeowner associations that if communications get knocked out, internet gets knocked out, that there is a fail stay, a place where any owner can contact who is out of the area and where they can expect that a communication is going to get through. So set does networks in advance so that if an owner in a southwest Florida property in this particular storm wanted to find a board member, it hasn't had a means of making contact with somebody in order to do that, certainly the owners need to know email addresses and phone numbers for people who they may need to contact. You need to know where your owners are. There are groups that did not actually know who was in residence at their community when the storm hit. So that's obviously a really important and set up mechanisms so that you know, knew who left town and who you would need to check on.
All those things have to be thought of in advance. And obviously information on how to make contact. And again, to have some sort of a network, and I'm sure there are people who are much more technologically adept than I am of establishing an out of area contact that individual owners or board members and so forth can contact. I think the management companies did a pretty good job of establishing groups that they can call so that their board members can be reached. But communication was a real serious problem. Jon, why don't you talk about access to emergency funds?
Jon Lemole, Esq.:
Yes, I just wanted to add one couple thought on the communication issue. Look, in Lee County and Collier County's, property managers were affected, lawyers were affected just as much as owners of condo unit owners and town homeowners. So, one of the things that I would advocate for, and as Alan said, management companies probably are doing this already, but it's really an opportunity now for the managers and their clients to sit down together and understand, okay, if we can't reach you, who's the backup? Who do we go to? What's the management company's contingency plan? What is your general counsel's contingency plan? Alan touched on that a little bit. Frankly, we had lawyers in Lee County who our office was assisting with helping their clients because they just didn't have the ability to do it. These lawyers were struggling with their own losses and in inability, no phone service, no cell phone service, no whatever.
And so we knew that and where we could, we pitched in and helped. But the takeaway here is be talking to those folks that help you manage your community, your management companies and your lawyers and understand where can you go if you can't reach them, if the communication has completely broken down, because you're going to have questions, you're going to need to talk to somebody. And so just know that beforehand. Now onto access to emergency funds. There's going to be in the immediate aftermath of a storm, things that need to get done, safety conditions are going to need to be dealt with.
Temporary emergency measures are going to need to be taken in order to prevent further damage, to mitigate losses is, but water removal companies are going to be very active and they're going to need to be brought in. Gaps in the roof are going to need to be fixed so that you don't have continued water coming in if it continues to rain after the storms. And you may not be able to have those conversations with your insurance carrier right away in order to figure out where you stand in all of this. If you haven't adequately planned for access to funds, that's going to be a pretty big burden for your community. So one of the things that communities can do, and I know that a lot of communities, they think about borrowing money as a bad thing, but having a line of credit available in these situations is something that I think every association should consider. You may not use it, but it's there and you have the ability to write some checks that desperately need to be written.
One of the other things that you can do, like look, communities do emergency management planning. When I say communities, I mean municipalities, right? Every municipality has an emergency management plan where your communities should have an emergency management plan as well. So you probably all realize or recognize that before most major storms, the governor issues an emergency order, which suspends compliance with a lot of requirements. And typically one of the things that gets suspended is your association's responsibility to strictly comply with rules and regulations and statutes that impact board decision-making. And so that's an opportunity for you folks to have a conversation ahead of time as to, okay, who's got authority in this community to make some emergency decisions, to write checks, to secure needed urgent work in the community? Who, who's going to be the person or people that do that? And again, that gets back to what Alan was saying earlier, you may have people, board members who are not there.
And so you need to know that. And you need to know what is the mechanism that the people who are here on the ground, the directors that are here on the ground can make these decisions and amongst themselves. Or maybe it's just one person who you're vesting with that ability to do that. But you've got to have those lines drawn clearly so that there's no confusion. And then after the fact, nobody's pointing fingers at why this was done or who did this. You've got to empower certain people in your community to be able to respond to these things when the means of communication may not be available for group decision-making and collective deliberation on those issues. So lines of credit and emergency management plan, just like municipalities do, is definitely a good thing. And then I think the last thing that we're going to talk about before answering some questions is dealing with first party insurance claims and repairs. This has been a really, really big area of contention in the aftermath of the storm. So, Alan is going to talk about that.
Alan Tanenbaum, Esq.:
Not very happy right now with the remediation industry and the public adjusting industry, we're really seeing horror stories on a day to day basis. And I hope I don't offend anybody here who's been a public adjuster, but we're saying some of the old problems come back again. So what's a public adjuster? A public adjuster is a company that has experience in adjusting insurance claims. They typically operate on a contingency basis. The contingencies are usually between 10 and 20%. So they come to your community and they in the aftermath of a storm and they say, look, we will get contractors in to document the damages. We will refer you to remediation contractors and we will make the claim with your insurance company. We'll get your insurance company out. And at the end of the day there will be a number that will be presented to the insurance company to cover your claim.
And usually a joint check will be issued and the public adjuster will take 10 to 20% of the overall claim. The incentive of a public adjuster is to increase the claim to its maximum, and obviously if you're on a percentage basis, that will mean the maximum financial recovery. Now, what does a public adjuster not do? First of all, a public adjuster generally won't scour your documents to see what the appropriate line of demarcation is between association responsibility and owner responsibility. So don't look at them as legal advisors who are going to make those distinctions. If they could include what should be owner claims against an owner's own policy in their claim, they will do so. Because again, it's going to increase the ultimate amount of their claim. So be sure you get independent legal advice, understanding your documents when you're working with a public adjuster so that they don't cross boundaries that are inappropriate.
So what's the immediate need? You need to stop water getting into your building. So there'll be roofers coming out and companies that coming out will do the roof tarping. We've seen that. There's good roof tarping, there's bad roof tarping. So you should have somebody knowledgeable making sure that the tarping that's done is appropriate. There needs to be appropriate dry out. So you need to get a company into and to do that. Your insurance company may give you some interim money to take care of things like that because it reduces their loss. But we've seen some real oddities where these remediation companies come in, the roof is tart and they're doing more than dry out. They're ripping out drywall, they're replacing drywall. It doesn't make a lot of sense in most cases to replace drywall when the roof hasn't been a permanent roof, hasn't been installed.
We've seen remediation contractors who just go around the community knocking on doors saying, I'm here to fix your drywall without having any contractor, any authority to do so. That's happening all over. That process has to be gain control over. One of the problems in a storm is that everybody wants everything fixed as quickly as possible and get the community back in operation. But it doesn't suspend the association's obligation either in HOA or a condo to make sure that repairs are administered in an appropriate fashion. So what happens in Florida, unfortunately it's happening now, is contractors are coming in from all over the country. They have flooded southwest Florida, many of them are not licensed in Florida.
Many of them are doing repairs that are outside the scope of their competence. Many are not seeking building permits for work that does require a building permit. So the rules about good contracting are not suspended during a hurricane. And we've included here some tips, you can go back through them, but you need a vet who's coming to your property, even under emergency circumstances. You need to have an appropriate contract with them. You need to have third party supervision of the work that they're doing. Will you be able to meet all the conditions for good repair protocol? Probably not. But we're saying instances where there's really no implementation of proper procedures contracting and so forth as an entity who's working on your property, are they insured?
Did they give you a certificate of insurance? We have people who show up, they have FEMA badges on, they're not with FEMA. There're all kinds of schemes and scams going on that you have to get control of. Now, one of the problem, we have villa communities where again, these folks are going door to door. They may be even telling them that they have the authority of the board of directors to be going in their unit. Well, maybe not, but who's watching this contractor as they're in a unit from issues like theft. I've seen some very loose criteria there. Who's watching what they're doing is, are they doing the work that's appropriate? Are they doing it correctly?
And again, very concerning when they're not under contract, they're just flowing into the buildings and doing repairs. And again, what they're looking for is, well, the insurance company's going to pay us, so they operate even without a contract. So there has to be a communication with the owners. And again, this is part of the advanced protocol, which is to let the owners know that in a case of a storm, this is what they're responsible this for. This is what the association's responsible for, this is who you should be opening your door for and who you should not.
Because if a storm occurs and somebody knocks on your door and they say they're authorized by the board to come in and do repairs, we have a whole group of owners in one community who contacted us and said, we have this contractor coming into our units and we don't even have damaged drywall in many of these units, and they're ripping the drywall out. Again, that's a company that is looking for some short-term profit to take advantage of the circumstances that exist. And it's really unfortunate. So, Jon, if you go to the next slide, I think there's another slide.
Yeah, here's some of the warning signs. You get people showing up FEMA badges who are not with FEMA. They have a fancy jacket on. Unsolicited offer of services. I don't know how many groups where a roofer has, this is during non-hurricane. A roofer shows up and says, I've noticed that there's some tile slippage here. You could have an insurance claim, best not to contract with them. Upfront payment. Not such an issue now. But if you hear that, that's a sign. And they're saying that they work with insurance companies and so forth, kind of being worried about that.
But again, the same processes at good times, which is having a good contract, knowing who you're dealing with, making sure they're licensed, making sure they've secured the appropriate permits, having third-party supervision, all those things even in a hurricane situation where the repairs being done, all those protocols should be in place. Now our bias is if it's a significant claim to hire a first party insurance lawyer, they're going to be more sensitive to the document restrictions on who's responsible for what. They will get the same remediation contractors in, but under better control. And in the end, hiring a first party lawyer is not going to cost the association anymore than dealing with a public adjuster, except you have a lawyer on your team versus a public adjuster who, some of them are good, but again, their accentuation or their attitude is really to increase, in most cases the amount of the claim to a maximum.
We had a situation where a group was ready to re-roof all of its roofs, had a contract for it, public adjuster came in after the storm and they tried to elbow the roofer out of the contract to say, and told them that we could get a lot more money from the insurance company than you were already contracted to pay, which was insurance fraud right up front that they didn't seem to have any problems admitting to. So really the key is to keep your protocols in place as best as possible for good relations with contractors and be aware of some of the unfortunate things that are going on in the industry. Jon, I think we can cover some questions at this point. There's a question, a little bit off topic, but about skipping the normal reserve study and go for the surge. What would you say about that?
Jon Lemole, Esq.:
I'm sorry, I'm looking for the question. What is the question?
Alan Tanenbaum, Esq.:
First question, would it be advisable to skip the normal reserve study and go for the serves?
Jon Lemole, Esq.:
Well, if you have to do a surge, just do the serves. I think at this point, because first of all, getting it done in a timely fashion, although it may seem like the deadline for that is a little ways away, these companies are very over stressed right now, scheduling them is difficult. It may be a while before they can get there. The engineers are really stretched thin. So you got to factor all of that in. So it's really a hard question to answer because it may be a while before you can get the surgery report done. And so then do you have to make some reserve decisions and so do you get an interim report? Or do you just work on getting the services done now? I mean, financially, I don't necessarily see a reason for spending money twice, because you're going to have to do that report anyway at some point if you're under that regime based on your building height. So I think that's really more of a financial question. Do we want to have two reports instead of one?
Alan Tanenbaum, Esq.:
Yeah, it's unfortunate. A lot of the reserve study companies are seven, eight, nine months out, maybe longer. So if you're starting now to do your budget for next year and you haven't gotten your reserve study done, you're going to have to figure out a way to calculate those reserves because you're not going to get a report within a month for your budget process. There's a question for communities that are in the middle of the inspections and the repair scopes, how would you recommend handling the conversations with the carriers during the bidding process? A very difficult question. Any conversation with an insurance carrier right now is a tenuous one.
You're lucky enough to establish coverage. I don't know what the insurance companies are asking by way of documentation. There are insurance companies that they've notified their underwriters to write as little as coverage in Florida as possible. So they're looking for reasons to reject you. So I'm not sure what you're going to tell them. I think in any other insurance situation, what you're trying to convince the insurance company is that you're a good rest. So certainly telling them that you're getting all the inspections done, you're meeting the statutory requirements, the association tends to repair the buildings to make them serviceable. Should make your insurance company feel a little bit better about ensuring your particular risk. There's a question about ordinance or law coverage, yes, that's necessary. That will cover an instance such as the code has changed and you have a replacement cost that's increased as a result of an order by the building department that you have to meet the current building code law and ordinance coverage will cover that. I think it's a good coverage to purchase, usually not that expensive.
There's a question in a multi-family multi-story building, how to determine when wind blow water damage to a unit is the responsibility of the owner and when it is the responsibility of the building. All right, I'm presuming this is a condo situation. So here's our typical response. No matter what the source of water, if there's interior unit damage, the homeowner or the condo owner should be advised to make a claim against their own carrier for that interior damage. And if that carrier wants to subrogate against the association's carrier, it can do so. The key, what the association's policy, condo associations policy is covering is typically damage to the common elements. And that's really what the claim should be. Now, some of them will carry some cover cemetery damage, but in every instance we would advise that the owner for any interior damage do their own repairs.
The other problem with that claim coming through the association is how is it adjusted? The board of directors and management don't want to be in the business of determining on a unit by unit basis how much of an insurance claim an owner's going to be entitled to and certainly doesn't want to be in the business of contracting for interior repairs beyond dry out because then you're going to have potential years of dispute over the adequacy of the work, did they get the finishes that they desired it? It's very problematic. So let the owners deal with their interior issues beyond dry out, which may be good to handle from an association standpoint. But let the owners make a claim against their own carriers for that interior damage and undertake the corrections with what they're able to recover. There will be a transcript and Michelle has already responded to that.
So let me see. I think somebody asked an esoteric insurance question. Differentiating between actual cash value versus replacement cost coverage. And Kirk, you had to go and answer a question that I don't have a specific answer to. Replacement cost coverage sounds like a policy that says whatever the actual cost bid for the work is what you're covered for, whereas actual cash value is a stated amount and even if it ended up costing you significantly greater than that, that's the limit of your policy. But that's what those words seem to me. But I could be corrected by somebody who's an expert on insurance jargon. Jon, do you have any closing thoughts?
Jon Lemole, Esq.:
When you know a storm is coming, prepare your community for the fact that there may be repairs that need to be done for a while and the community may not look very good. That's a thing I keep hearing from folks that we represent, is that the residents are getting really upset at seeing these tarps. When can we fix the tarps? When can we fix the roof? And it's a stressful enough situation to have to deal with the storm. Owners are confused, they don't exactly know what's going on. They get frustrated, they vent their frustration at management, they vent their frustration at directors, and you all sit there and say, well, there's really nothing we can do about it right now. And so it's probably a good idea before the storm to say to your folks, look, we don't know what's going to happen here, but if something does happen, we may be dealing with it for a while and you have to be patient with us as we work through the issues of insurance coverage, paying for it, paying for it at competitive rates, dealing with reputable contractors who are available.
And understand that you are going to see a lot of contractors come this community who may not be reputable. So don't assume that we're just not doing work. We may not be selecting folks that because they're available, they're available for a reason as opposed to reputable folks who may not be immediately available. It's just transparency, good communication.
Alan Tanenbaum, Esq.:
The thing I have to offer in closing, I've been around long enough to remember that we used to have civil defense drills. I was around long enough to remember when they said, look, if there's a nuclear blast, they were teaching the students to get under the desk would do any good anyway. But civil defense training is preparing a population by practicing. So it's a good thought, which is, okay, it's November, and there probably will not be a hurricane again until May or June of next year. And have a session within the next couple of months where you run through with the board and potentially the owners of what if we recreate the situation that occurred in southwest Florida that happens to our property? What are we going to do? Who do we know? Who do we contact? What education needs to occur? What are all of our protocols? And get them set now. And learn from the experiences of all the folks in who and the studies that are going to be coming out of this particular storm and use that body of knowledge in order to do some great planning.
That's what I'll leave everyone with. And somebody named Diane Shapiro has put in a very great comment to close on, which is anyone could register for CERT training, Community Emergency Response Team, and anyone who needs that information, we will get it from Diane and supply it to you. There's Diane, she even put her email address. So, dianeshapiro93yahoo.com has anticipated what we were going to say today and already knows of a program that offers training for community emergency response. So thank you Diane. So we're going to say goodbye at this point. Thanks for coming on. We're going to have another presentation next month. Any other questions that anyone has, you can send them to us, and we will provide a response. So we will see everybody next month. Thank you.
Jon Lemole, Esq.:
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