Q. Our condominium association is faced with a dilemma regarding hurricane shutters. In your experience, is it better to have the association take responsibility for installing and maintaining shutters, or should this responsibility be put on the individual units owners?
A. This is a case-by-case decision for each association. The residents in your community should have clarity with respect to hurricane preparation and protection. First, the board should have its legal counsel review the condominium documents to determine if the responsibility for hurricane shutters lies with the association or the individual unit owners. If the shutters are the responsibility of association pursuant to the documents, the association should develop a plan for the installation of the shutters in severe weather and is also responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of the shutters. Further, in this scenario the association can go ahead and install hurricane shutters, impact glass or other code-compliant windows without a vote of the owners, and the cost of the installation will be a common expense. On the other hand, if the individual unit owners are responsible for hurricane protection under the documents, the association would need approval from a majority of the owners in order to install shutters or other protection. In a community with a large number of multi-story buildings, it is probably better for the association to accept responsibility and seek a vote for installation of uniform shutters for protection of the buildings and its residents. With respect to installation by unit owners, the Board must adopt hurricane shutter specifications for each building within each condominium operated by the association which shall include color, style, and other factors deemed relevant by the Board. The association cannot refuse installation by a unit owner that conforms to these specifications adopted by the Board. In short, the better alternative depends on a number of factors, some of which are legal and some of which are logistical. The Board should consult with its property manager and attorney if there is confusion in this area.