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Associations have rules concerning hurricane shutter deployment
by: Rob Samouce
It’s here again. Hurricane season officially started June 1 and will go on until Nov. 30. Most of the seasonal residents have gone back north, and those of us left behind have the pleasure of living in neighborhoods or condominium buildings with lots of shuttered up homes and units. Some neighborhoods or buildings with lots of deployed shutters have been compared to looking like Beirut, Lebanon.

Because of this rolled up ghost town effect the deployed shutters can have, many associations struggle with adopting house rules to try to minimize the adverse look and duration of the boarded up look.

To minimize the adverse look, many associations will require that the shutters must be neutral in color such as clear or white or match the color of the home or building. If possible, they will prohibit the installation of corrugated steel or plywood.

To minimize duration of shutter deployment, many associations will require that the shutters cannot go up before June 1 and must come down by Nov. 30 of each year. Other associations will say that they cannot go up before the first named storm of the year and must come down by Nov. 30 of each year.

Some associations will require that they cannot go up until a storm is named and must come down after the named storm is no longer a threat. In these neighborhoods or buildings, the shutters may go up and down five to 10 times a hurricane season, which can be quite a bit of work for the aesthetic trade-off.

If your association wants to implement or change any current house rules concerning shutter deployment, to be effective, the new proposed rules must be sent or delivered to the home or unit owners at least 14 days before the board meeting to approve same along with a copy of the notice of the board meeting.

Many associations will also adopt house rules requiring owners to remove all personal property from their lanais or balconies if they will be gone from their unit for an extended period (say more than four days) during hurricane season. This can minimize damage that can be caused by their personal property becoming flying projectiles or missiles in a hurricane or sever storm.

Sometimes right before an impending storm, an owner who does not have professionally installed shutters will nail up some tacky plywood. Although such action may be in violation of an association’s shutter rules, we usually suggest that an association not interfere with the owner putting up the plywood to protect his property so that the association does not assume liability of any damage to the home that may occur. However, after the storm threat is gone the owner should be required to remove the plywood immediately and be informed that he cannot do it again if it’s against the association’s shutter policies and that if he wants shutter protection he needs to contract for and install professional shutters. If he then puts up the plywood again when the next storm approaches, the association should then take legal action against him for a permanent injunction to prevent such plywood installation in the future. If such action becomes necessary, usually the owner will be responsible for the association’s attorney’s fees in addition to his own. This can become much more costly to the violating owner than to cost of professionally installed shutters. It is a balancing act between providing hurricane protection and keeping aesthetics of the community at a high standard. However, well thought out and adopted rules can allow for such balance.
Rob Samouce, a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce, Murrell, & Gal, P.A., concentrates his practice in the areas of community associations including condominium, cooperative and homeowners' associations, real estate transactions, closings and related mortgage law, general business law, estate planning, construction defect litigation and general civil litigation. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time. Those persons interested in specific legal advice on topics discussed in this column should consult competent legal counsel.