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Storm Cleanup: What Are Your Responsibilities as a Property Manager?

Vacationers and residents will always need rentable condos around Miami, as they provide beachfront living spaces that enhance life in the bustling city. However, these complexes are also in the path of annual hurricanes and tropical storms. 


Landlords must assist tenants after major storms sweep through the area. Here are essential items property managers are responsible for to avoid disgruntled renters and potential legal complications.



What Hurricane Season Holds for Miami


Hurricane season lasts much longer than many people realize. Miami-based property owners must stay alert from June through November, meaning you may need to respond to storm damage for most of the year. 


Intense hurricanes aren’t the only seasonal storms to worry about — your condos may also endure turbulent tropical depressions with 38-mile-per-hour (mph) sustained winds instead.


The 2023 hurricane season had an above-average number of storms, generating 20 named storms and damaging properties across several East Coast states. Experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration haven’t released their 2024 storm predictions yet, but rising ocean temperatures and an emerging La Niña pattern make intense, frequent storms in 2024 more likely.


5 Storm Cleanup Responsibilities for Condo Property Managers


Property managers should review the Florida Condominium Act (FCA) — also known as Florida Statutes § 718 — to understand the legal responsibilities of insurance companies and property managers. However, you can also follow these five FCA tips — and advice from your property insurance company — to repair your condo after a storm.


1. Fallen Trees: Grab a Chainsaw


The property owner is responsible for removing fallen trees after an insurable event like a hurricane or tropical storm. It must happen promptly to allow tenant evacuation if necessary and restore the flow of property traffic. 


Emergency response vehicles may also need to access the property, making tree removal an immediate priority for property owners. Maintenance workers may use chainsaws to break up fallen trees. A small forwarder can then help them carry 2,000-6,000 pounds of debris from roadways.


After the trees are gone, you can file a property damage claim with your insurance company. Take pictures before and after the tree’s removal to accompany your claim and boost your chance of getting repaid.


2. Interior Unit Damage: Work With Your Tenants


According to Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(f), a rental property manager’s insurance should cover everything but a tenant’s personal property after an insurable event occurs. For example, property insurance pays for interior water damage to walls and floors, while tenants must replace things like window treatments, TVs and furniture.


3. Major Reconstruction Work: Contact Your Insurance Company


If a condominium board governs your property, Fla. Stat. § 718.111(11)(g)2 requires the board to approve any reconstruction work before it can begin repairs. The same section also says unit owners are responsible for contacting their insurance companies to pay for reconstruction work. Tenants don’t have to pay extra to rebuild anything on the property.


4. Removing Dangerous Debris: Call Your Maintenance Team


Other dangerous debris — like shattered glass in the parking lot or large branches across walkways — can affect tenants after a major storm. The property’s maintenance team should remove these issues immediately. Some tenants may opt to sweep debris themselves, but it’s not their legal responsibility to handle it independently.


Debris can also pose a significant hazard to tenants with mobility impairments. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires people with disabilities to receive reasonable accommodations to eliminate barriers in public and residential spaces. Being unable to access the parking lot or a wheelchair ramp due to storm debris could infringe on their legal rights. It’s essential for all tenants to remove debris immediately.


5. Determining Condo Habitability: Contact Insurance Representatives or FEMA


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines a space livable after a hurricane if the unit is structurally sound, sanitary, functional and free of disaster-related hazards. You may need to file for FEMA unit inspections for your insurance company to cover condo repairs.


Check your property insurance policies, as well. They may require a company representative to visit your condominium complex after a storm for an independent determination before covering repairs. Either way, the tenant is still only responsible for replacing or repairing their personal property in the condo.


Best Practices for Post-Storm Cleanup


After a storm passes over Miami, property owners should visit their condominiums and inspect the property as soon as it’s safe to leave their storm shelter. Follow these steps to start your assessment while helping tenants resume their daily lives:


  • Walk the property to visually inspect it for flooding, fallen trees, downed power lines and exterior property damage.

  • Before starting cleanup, take photos and videos of exterior and interior damages for insurance claims.

  • Clear entrances and exits immediately using tools like chainsaws, rakes or brooms.

  • Contact local authorities to report downed power lines and other severe hazards.

  • Clean out the gutters to prevent rainwater from pooling on your roof and causing water damage.

  • Contact tenants to ask how they’re doing and if their unit experienced any damage.

  • Check empty units to look for leaks, water damage, broken windows or other forms of storm damage.

  • Install temporary solutions like dehumidifiers to prevent mold growth and a wet vacuum to remove water from flooded ground-floor units.

  • If your property floods, wear tall rain boots to avoid contact with bacteria and feces from overflowing sewer lines.

  • Contact local contractors to start repairs when the roads are safe to drive.

  • File insurance or FEMA claims to inquire about financial support.


Many leases require property managers to reduce rental fees until unit repairs are finished or end the lease if damages require long-term work in an unlivable unit.


Tenants will likely ask for help, which should be the top priority for any property owner. Help them inspect their units for livability, clear the parking lot for greater accessibility and ensure the maintenance team removes all debris from walkways. Once you have more information from FEMA inspectors or your insurance company, you can send a mass email informing tenants of the repair timeline.


Prepare for Any Upcoming Hurricane Season


Property managers have specific responsibilities after major storm damage. Keep these tips in mind to manage storm cleanup quickly and efficiently. You’ll help your tenants stay safe while maintaining your property’s structural integrity, abiding by the law and potentially getting reimbursed for damage repair.


Evelyn Long is a writer that specializes in housing market trends. She is also the founder of Renovated Magazine, where she writes essential resources for renters and homeowners. She has contributed to several other sites like National Association of Realtors and Realty Executives. Subscribe to renovated.com/subscribe for more posts by Evelyn.

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