Best Way to Handle Condo Insurance Claims
STUART, Fla. – Question: I am a newly elected board member of our community's condominium association. As a result of Hurricane Irma, we experienced substantial damages. We are still in the midst of dealing with the insurance claims process, almost two years later. Do you have any tips to make sure we, as board members, are properly doing our job in the handling of our insurance claim? – J.R., Delray Beach
Answer: Yes. You may want to consider hiring a public adjuster and a law firm that regularly handles insurance claim negotiation who will advocate on your behalf with the insurance company. We have found public adjusters to be very skilled at obtaining significantly more money from the insurance company than originally offered on the claim. Public adjusters typically charge a percentage of the increase they are able to negotiate beyond the initial offer from the insurance company. You should also stay in close communication with your insurance agent throughout the claims process.
Question: There are rumors floating around that our condominium does not have enough insurance in the event of a hurricane or other casualty. How can we determine if the board is maintaining sufficient insurance? – S.D., Fort Pierce
Answer: The insurance policies, quotes and all other related insurance information including appraisals are official records of the Association and you, as a member of the Association, are entitled to make copies of such records. So, first you should make a written request to inspect and copy the records and deliver the request to the manager or the board. The Association has 10 business days following receipt of the written request to provide you access to the records.
Additionally, the Condominium Act, Section 718.111(11)(a) requires the Association to obtain an appraisal of the building at least every 36 months and then insure the building for the full replacement value based on the appraisal. You should be able to determine from the appraisal and policy limits if the building is being adequately insured.
Question: Our community has many large, mature and beautiful trees, one of which is on my property, but has now died. The Association denied my request to remove the tree, even though I received a report from a professional that the tree was dead. With it being hurricane season, I am worried that a strong storm will cause the tree to fall on my villa. Does the Board need membership approval to remove a dead tree within my property line? – K.J., Vero Beach
Answer: It would be very unusual for the governing documents to require membership approval to remove a tree. There is no law that requires membership approval to remove a tree. Moreover, if you are a condominium the Division of Condominiums gives Board's broad latitude to alter landscaping without approval of the membership. In this case if you have not already done so I would suggest that you provide the report regarding the tree to the Association and request that they either remove the tree or give you permission to remove it. If they fail to do either and the compromised tree does fall and damage your home the Association could be deemed negligent for failing to correct the problem. Also, keep in mind some counties require a permit to remove trees so you should check with your County on that issue.
John C. Goede Esq. is co-founder and shareholder of the law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.
Editor’s note: Attorneys at Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, respond to questions about Florida community association law. The firm represents community associations throughout Florida and focuses on condominium and homeowner association law, real estate law, civil litigation, estate planning and commercial transactions.
Copyright © 2019 Journal Media Group, John C. Goede
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