However, when hurricanes are approaching we caution association board members not to interfere with owners trying to protect their property with plywood other than to let them know that they will be responsible for the cost of repairing the holes put in the structure after the threat has gone. Allowing owners to temporarily protect themselves and their property far outweigh temporary aesthetic and possibly acquired liability issues.
Before owners have professionally constructed shutters installed, it is important to review what approval may be necessary from the community association prior to installation.
For single-family homes, or attached or detached villas (rather than condominium units) within a neighborhood that has a homeowners' association, the approval of association board or architectural control committee is usually required prior to installation to make sure the proposed shutters conform with the architectural criteria for the association. In order to maintain a uniform look of shutters in the community, the association may wish to obtain hurricane shutter specifications and adopt them as part of the architectural criteria and distribute a copy to the owners so that the owners will know what they should be installing.
For condominiums, Section 718.113(5), Florida Statutes requires that all boards of directors of condominium associations adopt hurricane shutter specifications for each building within the condominium. The specifications must include color, style and other factors deemed relevant by board. Roll down accordion panels can be specified and, if desired, you can give owners a choice of style to accommodate cost concerns. The specifications must, of course, comply with the new stronger building codes.
The adopted specifications must be kept on file with the association's other official records so that they can be given to an owner who wishes to install shutters on their unit. A board cannot then disapprove the installation or replacement of shutters by a unit owner which conform to the approved specifications.
Most experts in this area agree that to really protect a home or condominium building, all building openings must be shuttered or protected to maintain the integrity of the pressure envelope within the building. If even one opening is not protected and then breached by the wind or flying objects, the pressure envelope will be compromised; the wind will get inside and could then blow out other openings or the roof of the building. The result of the breach could be massive water and wind damage.
Therefore, for many high-rise condominiums, having some units shuttered and others not may provide only sunscreen protection for the shuttered units.
Because of this "whole building" shutter concern, Section 718.113(5), Florida Statutes allows for an entire condominium building, both common element windows and unit windows, to be shuttered if a majority of the owners vote to do so.
If a condominium association votes to shutter the remainder of a building, Section 718.115(1) (e), Florida Statutes provides that those owners who have previously installed hurricane shutters or laminated glass architecturally designed to function as hurricane protection and complying with applicable building code, would receive an assessment credit equal to the pro rata share of the assessment installation cost assigned to each unit for unit installations. For common element window installations, those owners with their own shutters or hurricane glass would still pay their pro rata share of the common element installation costs and future operation, maintenance, repair and replacement costs.
When shuttering the remainder of a condominium building with the majority consent of the owners, Section 718.113(5), Florida Statutes provides that the association cannot install shutters where laminated glass or window film architecturally designed to function as hurricane protection has been installed.
Section 718.113(5), Florida Statutes also provides that hurricane shutters are excluded from any material alteration requirements of an association's governing documents which alteration requirements many times require a much higher owner vote than a majority.
When storms approach, the statutes also provide that the condominium board of directors may operate hurricane shutters without permission of the unit owners when necessary to protect the condominium and association property.
To avoid the risk and high costs of replacing the wrong shutters, owners should make sure they obtain approval of their homeowners' association or follow the approved specifications of their condominium associations prior to installation.
For those wanting peace of mind, you now know how to get the proper approval prior to installing hurricane protection.
Rob Samouce, a principal 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, 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.