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Preparing Your HOA for Storm Damage & Other Disasters

By Lance Stendal Best Practices, Seasonal Series Comments Off on Preparing Your HOA for Storm Damage & Other Disasters

storm damage

This week’s storms in the Twin Cities served as a quick reminder how quickly your situation can change. Fortunately most of the Associations we manage escaped damage, just a few large branches and a couple of trees down but no damage to buildings and everything was cleaned up within a couple of days. But not everyone was so lucky.

My background is in homeowner association management but I also am a Public Adjuster for our sister company, Omega Public Adjusters, which is why Minnesota Multi-Housing Association (MHA) asked me to give a presentation this past March on handling insurance claims, particularly storm damage. One of my main points was about being prepared, because in Minnesota it’s not if, it’s when.

This is why I was dismayed when I was out for a run this morning, four days after the high winds, and there was still a tree leaning on the front of a townhome. As an association manager this offends me. How does the homeowner accept this from their association? This is the kind of thing that screams dereliction of duty and malfeasance. In our organization, if a fallen tree was touching a house it would be removed that night or the next day, with other lower priority work (e.g., a tree in the middle of the yard) removed a day or two later.

This isn’t an association we manage, and I am pretty sure it’s self-managed based on the size and their corporate registration, so nobody in our office is going to get in trouble, but I think it highlights the importance of being prepared for storm damage and other disasters.

It’s not that you have to sit down and write out an if/then list for every possible contingency, rather it’s more about the generalities of who are you going to call when storm damage occurs or disaster strikes. But that’s just the beginning – just because you have someone you can call that doesn’t mean that company is going to answer your call. Remember, this is about being prepared.

Business Friends

I have found over the past 20 years in business and running my own companies that business is relationships, but you probably already know that. I call these my business friends. You like working with them, they like working with you. You don’t jump from company to company to get the absolute best deal. You also understand that sometimes your friends are like you – they are not perfect, but they are still good people. Keeping and maintaining those relationships are important because we all know in life that when the chips are down it’s your friends who you need to count on.

Getting a tree cut down is no big deal – there are probably thousands of arborists in the Twin Cities willing to do it for you. But after a storm that has blown over thousands of trees they’re all busy, and the ones that aren’t I would be a little concerned about. So without an arborist friend you’re left waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting.

Now, I’m not saying you need the relationship more than your self-respect. But you can have a healthy relationship with a vendor built on mutual respect.

How are you treating your business friends? Will they answer your call when the chips (or trees) are down?

Get Yourself a Wingman

Sometimes you’re not the prettiest girl/guy at the dance so you’re the wallflower. In the HOA world the self-managed association is often that wallflower – they don’t have any leverage with contractors because long-term relationships are harder to maintain. A roofing contractor is looking at the self-managed association as this month’s food on the table but slim pickings after that.

The solution is essentially the same as in your dating years – get yourself a wingman. A management company is a good wingman. I have also seen self-managed associations use their neighboring association as their wingman, banding together to consolidate services. A contractor working with a managed association is doing a different calculus: while this association is this month’s food on the table, next month there will be probably be another association with this management company, and then another, etc. so the contractor is motivated to foster that relationship. This desire gives you leverage, which the management company can then exploit for its clients.

You want storm damage repaired promptly after a storm? Leverage can get you that. You want a guaranteed response time? Leverage can get that for you too. Now, a management company certainly cannot use that leverage for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their clients? Leverage away!

Even if you’re a small association, hire the management company to do your financials and bookkeeping instead of the accountant down the street. Even that small sliver of business should get you access to the management company’s leverage when you need it.

Getting Stuff Done

We have a saying in our office “Our job is to get stuff done!” – when you boil it down that’s what our clients are really paying us for or why the homeowners elected you to the Board of Directors. Those relationships are what makes it all work. Be good to your friends and they will be good to you.

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