Part 1: Are You Prepared for the 2021 Hurricane Season?
According to the NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, its Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has updated the averages for the Atlantic hurricane season to reflect more anticipated storms in the upcoming year . . . are you prepared?
Due to storms and hurricanes that have historically impacted Florida, DSK Law has had the opportunity to assist many individuals and small businesses with legal issues related to the aftereffects of storm damage. In past consultations with our clients, we have identified certain frequently asked questions or concerns as indicated below which may be helpful to you this hurricane season.
Question 1: I live in a condominium or homeowners’ association property. If it sustains storm damage to common-area facilities (i.e., pool, gym, playground, parking areas) due to a storm or hurricane, can I withhold payment of my association dues until the association repairs these common areas while I cannot use these facilities?
Answer: No. While the condominium or homeowner’s association is certainly obligated to arrange for the repairs of these common areas, you and every other homeowner are jointly the members of this association, and repair issues should be pursued with the association itself. Moreover, the means and/or budgeting for these repairs may require the input of the homeowners
collectively. Any unexplained failure to engage or address repairs must be pursued through the homeowners’ association itself in accordance with its rules, by-laws, and voting rights. Failing even those remedies, a lawsuit may be necessary against the homeowners’ association to legally enforce these remedies.
Question 2: Is there a law requiring my mortgage company to excuse my monthly payments if I am not able to pay my mortgage payments due to a storm or hurricane?
Answer: There is no general law requiring mortgage payments to be excused due to hardship from storms or hurricanes. The mortgage company may generally identify a default, and, subject to current orders due to COVID-19, may
pursue mortgage foreclosure as allowed by law. However, in the event of a hurricane or storm, you should contact your mortgage company or loan servicer to inquire whether or not it is offering mortgage relief, what programs are being offered, whether or not you qualify, and how to apply.
Question 3: Who is responsible for damages caused by a falling tree and for removal of the tree as a result of the storms or hurricanes?
Answer: If the damages were caused by a tree falling as a result of a storm or hurricane (i.e., an act of God), and there was no prior ability to anticipate or knowledge that the tree was a hazard and likely to fall, the damages are likely the responsibility of the owner of the damaged property.
Additionally, the removal of the fallen tree will in most instances be the responsibility of property owner upon whose property the tree landed, including a neighbor if the tree fell across the property boundary. As to whether the parties’ liability insurance should pay the cost will depend on their individual policies. Generally, if covered, there will usually be a high deductible on damages resulting from high winds and acts of nature.
Question 4: If I suffer property damage from a storm or hurricane and my insurance company refuses to approve my claim is my only option to file a lawsuit?
Answer: No. You can request mediation with your Insurer through a program set up through the State of Florida Department
of Financial Services by using the helpful link below. If you elect to avail yourself of these services, we urge you to contact us to discuss the process and the information you may need to have available to present to the mediator.
Please note that this information is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and it is based on the present state of the law without application to specific facts which may exist in a particular case. As such, if you have any issue following a storm then we encourage you to seek the advice of an attorney.