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Texas homeowners associations (HOAs) and condo owners associations (COAs) are no strangers to severe weather incidents ranging from tornadoes and hurricanes to high winds, flooding, and fires. Successful storm cleanup in Texas requires alignment among board members and thoughtful planning.

Even if your association has planned for the most severe weather, disasters are still unpredictable, and your board will still have plenty of questions about how to approach the aftermath - questions like:

  • Who is responsible for condo water damage?
  • Will my association face lawsuits after a storm?
  • How should our board communicate recovery efforts?

To help answer these and other frequently asked questions on how HOAs and COAs should handle storm damage in Texas, we went straight to the experts.
 

Video: Ask the Experts – Severe weather recovery and storm cleanup in Texas HOAs and COAs

Watch the video below to hear legal insights for HOAs and COAs on recovering from storm damage in Texas, relevant state laws, insurance, liabilities, and mitigating risks, led by Steptoe & Johnson PLLC attorneys, Leah K. Burton and Brady Ortego:
 

 

Who is responsible for cleaning up after a natural disaster in HOAs or COAs?

Governing documents and Texas laws

For HOAs, begin with your governing documents to understand the owner's lot responsibilities and the association's obligations to common areas.

For COAs, it helps to first know the year your building was established to determine which laws apply.

Pre-1984: Property Code Chapter 81

Property Code Chapter 81 applies to condominiums established before 1984. It covers maintenance of common areas and outlines who is responsible for different maintenance tasks. According to this law, owners maintain the interior of their condos while the association usually takes care of the upkeep and repairs of common areas. This chapter ensures that any changes or improvements to units and common areas meet the proper regulations.

Post-1984: Property Code Chapter 82

Property Code Chapter 82, also referred to as the Uniform Condominium Act, governs condominiums established after 1984. It covers all aspects of condominium management, including the creation, modification, administration, and termination of condominiums. It clearly defines the responsibilities of both unit owners and associations, addressing areas such as budgeting, financial management, and dispute resolution. Notably, Chapter 82 mandates the establishment of a Condominium Owners Association (COA) to manage common areas, and outlines responsibilities for maintenance, insurance, and overall governance.

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Expectations during storm cleanup in Texas

During storm cleanup in Texas, boards should:
  • Report all claims immediately, including photo and video evidence.
  • Act quickly to mitigate further risks.
  • Document every communication, including screenshots of texts or social media responses.
Vetting contractors

It's crucial to go through a comprehensive bidding process for fully vetted contractors. Beware of "disaster chasers" who offer too-good-to-be-true deals for upfront payments but never complete the job. Always review vendor contracts with your legal counsel to protect your board and address sub-par or incomplete work.

Communicating recovery efforts

Consistent and proactive communication is vital during disaster scenarios. Provide an overview of the repair process and keep your community informed, even if there aren't any updates. Remember, "No additional information or changes at this time” is still communication.


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Comprehensive Disaster Planning

Having a solid disaster plan is indispensable for Texas associations, and the importance of preparing before a disaster happens cannot be overstated. Here are additional detailed components you should include in your disaster preparedness strategy:

Pre-Disaster Preparation

Risk assessment
  • Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities in your community.
  • Prioritize high-risk areas and put in place specific strategies to mitigate these risks.
Safety drills
  • Organize periodic safety drills to ensure all residents and staff know the protocols.
  • Include evacuation routes, safe meeting points, and emergency contact information.
Emergency supplies
  • Stockpile essential emergency supplies such as first aid kits, bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, and batteries. Establish who has access to these supplies.
  • Remind residents of emergency supplies they should keep in their homes.
  • See our Emergency Kit Checklist here.
Insurance review
  • Regularly review your insurance policies to ensure they are up-to-date and provide adequate coverage.
  • Involve your insurance broker in these reviews and update policies as needed based on new risks or changes in state laws. (Your property management company should already have insurance partners in place to assist your board with this.)
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Immediate post-disaster actions

Initial damage assessment
  • Conduct a preliminary assessment of the damage as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Take detailed notes, photos, and videos to support insurance claims and repair plans.
Temporary repairs
  • Implement temporary repairs to prevent further damage while waiting for professionals to complete final repair solutions.
  • Ensure broken windows are boarded, tarps are applied over damaged roofs, and debris is removed from any access routes.
Resident support
  • Set up a support system to assist residents who may need temporary accommodation or other immediate help.
  • Coordinate with local authorities and relief organizations if necessary.
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Long-term recovery strategies for storm cleanup in Texas

Detailed recovery plan
  • Develop a step-by-step recovery plan that outlines the processes for short-term and long-term repairs.
  • Include timelines, responsible parties, and checkpoints to ensure progress remains on track.
Financial planning
  • Look at your association’s reserve funds to navigate covering unexpected expenses related to severe weather recovery.
  • Plan for both insurance reimbursements and out-of-pocket expenses.
Continuous improvement
  • After each recovery effort, conduct a review to identify what went well and what can be improved.
  • Update your disaster plan accordingly based on these observations.
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By incorporating these elements into your disaster preparedness and recovery plans, Texas associations can ensure a more resilient and well-prepared community. When it comes to storm cleanup in Texas, effective preparation can help offset the costs in the long run.

A seasoned property management partner can help plan and execute severe weather response plans, support mass communications to residents, and should already have well-established relationships with insurance carriers, banking partners, and vetted vendors.

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What boards might overlook

Having a disaster plan is crucial, and the best time to plan is before a disaster occurs. When mapping out your association’s severe weather response, consider including these items in your plan:
  • Trusted vendors on retainer to assist during recovery
  • A maintenance matrix documenting:
    • Building systems and features
    • Common areas and amenities
    • Responsibilities for repairs (association or resident)
  • List of pre-vetted contractors for repairs or replacements

Always finalize your board’s emergency plan with your management partner, insurance broker, and legal counsel.

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Conclusion: Storm cleanup in Texas

Strategic planning and clear communication are key to a successful storm cleanup in Texas. Equip your board with the knowledge and preparation needed to ensure a smooth recovery from severe weather damages. For more detailed guidance, consult with your HOA or COA legal advisors and your property management partner.

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Additional resources for severe weather prep and recovery from storm damage in Texas

Severe Weather Guide

See our comprehensive Severe Weather Guide Flipbook here, complete with emergency supply checklists and everything you need for storm preparedness.

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Storm Preparedness in Any Forecast for Texas HOAs and COAs

We're breaking down the most common types of Texas weather events and how your association can maximize your storm preparedness for any forecast here.

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Texas Hurricane Guide for HOAs and COAs

Discover the resources, checklists, and solutions your association needs for Texas hurricane season. Prep now and offset the impact of severe weather. Open our Texas Hurricane Guide here.

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FirstService Residential is simplifying property management.

Our FirstService Residential Texas family enjoys peace of mind knowing they’re in good hands. They can count on our 24/7 customer service for tailored solutions that take the balancing act out of property management. And our service-first philosophy means we don’t stop until what’s complicated becomes uncomplicated. To make life, simplified. 

If your association is not currently managed by FirstService Residential Texas, we would love to learn more about your community. Please click below and fill out a short Request for Proposal to set up a no-strings-attached conversation about how we can best support your association. We look forward to meeting you!

 

Monday May 20, 2024