Condo Q&A: A board may apply a disaster plan before, during or after an emergency that includes shutting off elevators, air conditioners, electricity and more.
STUART, Fla. – Question: My condominium’s Board of Directors recently started discussing hurricane preparations and steps the association would take if a hurricane were to hit our area. The board said they would shut down both the elevators and air conditioning 24 hours before the hurricane hits.
Does the Board have the right to shut off the elevators and air conditioning? What happens to the residents who choose to stay? – W.H., Naples, FL
Answer: Yes, your condominium association likely can turn off the building’s elevators and air conditioning units prior to and following a hurricane affecting our area. Section 718.1265 of the Condominium Statute authorizes condominium associations to exercise emergency powers in response to damage or injury caused by or anticipated in connection with an emergency assuming that the emergency powers are not otherwise specifically prohibited under the governing documents of the association.
Under the Emergency Powers provision, a condominium may implement a disaster plan before, during, or following the emergency event which may include shutting off elevators, electricity, water, sewer, security systems, and air conditioners. Many condominium associations suspend the operation and use of these items in an effort to protect these systems which may become damaged or compromised during an emergency event.
Additionally, directors are often concerned with the personal injury aspect of these items used during an emergency situation and take action to prevent these injuries from occurring or residents getting stuck in an elevator. Residents who decide to stay in their unit during the disaster event should be prepared to go without these services in advance of the disaster and for the next few days after the disaster.
The Condominium Statute also authorizes a condominium association to require the evacuation of the condominium property in the event of a mandatory evacuation order being issued for the association’s local area.
If residents refuse to leave, the association becomes immune from liability or injury to persons or property that may arise from the resident’s failure or refusal to evacuate. Additionally, Florida law permits a condominium association’s Board of Directors, with the advice of licensed professionals, emergency management officials or public health officials, to determine any portion of the condominium property, including units, unavailable for entry or occupancy by unit owners, their family, tenants and guests to protect their health, safety, or welfare.
The restriction of condominium property can extend well beyond the disaster as remediation efforts are often delayed due to labor and material shortages immediately following a disaster.
As the implications of implementing a disaster plan can have a substantial impact on the association’s residents, condominium boards that are considering adopting a disaster plan should consult with their association’s attorney to ensure they adopt a plan that works for their community and complies with both the governing documents and Florida law.
Additionally, I recommend all condominium associations that are considering the suspension of services during an emergency event communicate this strategy to residents so they are aware of how the association will respond to the event and determine what steps may be best for them and their family.
Christopher I. Miller, Esq., is an attorney with the law firm Goede, 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, DeBoest & Cross, 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.
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