Hurricane Sandy has brought unprecedented trauma, toil, sadness and damage to our neighborhoods and communities. As your condominium, cooperative or homeowners associations begin to recover from this natural disaster, there are several legal issues and tips to remember.
- Transition & Construction Defects – Hurricane Sandy will likely exacerbate the already deleterious effects of construction and/or development details. From sinkholes, to faulty construction, to negligent roofing and/or siding installations to improper grading and drainage, the winds and rains of the hurricane only served to make these problems all the more pressing. Associations can make repairs and protect against additional damages without prejudicing their rights with respect to, and their ability to recover damages from, their sponsors/developers/declarants. To avoid a later ‘spoliation of evidence’ of claim, various notices must be given, records made and damaged materials preserved. Only those repairs and/or work that are truly emergent should be made without respecting those directives above.
- Payment of Assessments – The payment of assessments by condominium and homeowners association owners must continue even for those unit owners displaced by Hurricane Sandy, or whose units and/or homes have suffered damage (either minor or substantial). While the manner of handling any failure by an owner so situated to pay assessments may differ from one condominium or homeowners association to another, boards and management should keep the general obligation in mind.
- Access to & Inspection of Units - While the scope, nature and authority may differ from state-to-state, associations and cooperatives may have the right to access units and/or apartments – with or without owner and/or occupant consent – to determine the extent of any interior damage (if any) caused by the hurricane. This knowledge is an essential component of any damage assessment and remediation plan.
- Recovery of Road Clearing Costs in New Jersey – Associations and cooperatives may be entitled to have trees and other obstructions removed from their roads by the municipality, or be reimbursed after the fact for the costs incurred by them to remove those trees and/or obstructions themselves. New Jersey’s Municipal Services Act includes the removal of “obstructions” other than snow and ice from a community’s roads as a service eligible for municipal work, or reimbursement.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] – has approved several counties in New Jersey and New York for individual and public assistance following the hurricane. This public assistance will enable individuals and associations to apply for federal loans and aid. Many counties are urging hurricane survivors who suffered property damage to apply for disaster assistance with FEMA, even if they already have insurance. People can register for FEMA assistance by telephone 1-800-621-FEMA , or online at www.disasterassistance.gov , or via a web-enabled smart phone application by visiting m.fema.gov and clicking “apply online for federal assistance”.