Hurricane Shutters and Hurricane Protection Policies: Does your Condominium have what it needs?

by Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP
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With the recent threat from Hurricane Irma, many condominium associations were faced with emergency requests from unit owners for the association to install or for the association to allow owners to install hurricane shutters or other forms of hurricane protection.

If an association had no hurricane protection policy in place, the association was likely unprepared to field these requests. Most board members would cringe at the thought of plywood being mounted on the windows, but if the association has not addressed what hurricane protection is acceptable, nor made arrangements for the association to install hurricane protection, the board of directors may not have the ability to deny an owner’s request to install their own form of code-compliant hurricane protection. The Condominium Act requires each board of directors of a residential condominium to adopt code-compliant hurricane shutter specifications (e.g., color, style, etc.) that unit owners must follow should they choose to install hurricane shutters. § 718.113(5), Fla. Stat. Boards cannot deny unit owners the right to install or replace hurricane shutters, impact glass, code-compliant windows or doors, or other types of hurricane protection that conform to the specifications adopted by the board. § 718.113(5)(d), Fla. Stat.

If your association does not want each unit owner choosing their own form of hurricane protection, the board of directors may install hurricane shutters, impact glass, code-compliant windows or doors, or other types of hurricane protection that complies with or exceeds the applicable building code if approved by a majority of the voting interests of the condominium. § 718.113(5)(a), Fla. Stat. However, a vote of the owners is not required if the declaration of condominium expressly states that the maintenance, repair and replacement of such items are the responsibility of the association. Id. Conversely, if code-compliant hurricane protection, laminated glass or window film architecturally designed to function as hurricane protection, has previously been installed, the board may not install hurricane protection without approval by a majority vote of the voting interests.  Id.

Boards may operate shutters, impact glass, code-compliant windows or doors, or other types of code-compliant hurricane protection without permission of the unit owners, only if such operation is necessary to preserve and protect the condominium property.  § 718.113(5)(c), Fla. Stat. When hurricane protection is installed, replaced, operated, repaired or maintained in accordance with the procedures outlined in § 718.113(5), such actions do not constitute a material alteration to the common elements or association property.  § 718.113(5)(c), Fla. Stat.  Once installed, responsibility for maintenance, repair and replacement of hurricane protection will fall on either the unit owners or the association, as set forth in the declaration of condominium, even if the association installed the hurricane protection. § 718.113(5)(b), Fla. Stat.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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