By Tina Fischer |
Today marks the first day of the 2015 hurricane season here in Florida, and many homeowners are making some form of preparation for a major storm. Part of those preparations will likely include checking property insurance policies to insure adequate coverage is in place in the event of damage of loss from wind or flooding. Florida condominium associations and unit owners must keep in mind a few unique aspects of Florida condominium law that can have a major financial impact on unit owners who fail to adequately insure their individual condo unit.
There are many unique issues associated with condominium ownership and management. Whether a condo has two units or 200, owners are required to form an official association to oversee the management and decision-making for the building. These responsibilities are carried out by an elected board, usually made up of unit owners, who often have little experience with the issues presented in a condominium development. Nevertheless, failure to take due care with these responsibilities can have major impacts should a storm hit.
One responsibility in particular relates to the form, extent and responsibility for insurance on the building and individual units. Every condominium building in Florida must maintain a master policy of insurance covering the common areas within the condo. Associations must purchase and maintain a policy in the name of the association, which covers at the very least general liability (i.e. slip and falls or other personal injury) and property damage, insuring the recreation areas, hallways, elevators, sidewalks, roofs, basements and building equipment. The costs for a master policy of insurance are passed on to the individual unit owners in the form of assessments, usually on a pro rata basis as provided for by the documents governing the condominium.
While the building common areas must be insured by the association, unit owners must individually maintain insurance on their unit, to include all personal property within the unit, the assigned limited common elements assigned to that unit, the floor, walls and ceiling coverings, as well as electrical fixtures and other built-in elements of a unit. Although the limits of an individual owner’s coverage may vary, unit owners must maintain insurance in a sufficient amount to cover the costs of reconstruction of the owner’s property. After a loss of property, due to a hurricane or otherwise, reconstruction is generally the responsibility of the association, for both common property and individual units, but the unit owner is responsible to reimburse the costs of reconstruction attributable to his or her individual unit. If those costs are not sufficiently covered by the unit owner’s policy, the association may charge and collect unpaid reconstruction costs in the form of assessments to the unit owner.
Even though statutory requirements apply to all condominiums in the state, each condominium declaration differs in some way, and the laws regulating associations and boards are revised by the legislature in some form every year. Fletcher & Fischer can assist existing associations and boards with interpretation of existing statutory laws and changes related to insurance requirements as well as any other legislation related to Florida condominiums, and can prepare amendments to existing declarations when necessary to bring associations into compliance. For new condominium associations, Fletcher & Fischer can assist with formation of condominium associations and drafting initial declarations and other governing documents to insure conformance with existing condominium laws and adequate protections for associations and unit owners.
Tina Fischer represents developers and small and medium-sized businesses as outside corporate and real estate counsel. She also represents landlords and tenants in commercial lease transactions and provides assistance to clients with land acquisition and disposition, due diligence, environmental permitting, and negotiation of land use approvals, master development agreements, interlocal agreements and public/private partnership agreements.