Unless a major natural disaster has hit your community, you may be unaware that under current law homeowners in community associations are not eligible for FEMA assistance to repair common areas in their buildings.  Further, associations are routinely denied disaster assistance for activities like debris removal after storms.  This is particularly frustrating for association homeowners as they pay the same taxes as eligible, non-association homeowners.

Thankfully, association homeowners are one step closer to qualifying for assistance.  On June 26, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Disaster Assistance Support for Communities and Homeowners Act of 2017, H.R. 1684. This bill, sponsored by Congressman Nadler (D-NY), instructs FEMA to provide assistance to common interest communities to help them identify ways to become eligible for disaster assistance.  Further, the bill instructs FEMA to provide a legislative proposal to Congress that would qualify community common areas for disaster assistance.

Congressman Nadler’s constituents, like many others, have experienced the repercussions of this inequity in disaster assistance. He noted that in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, “Seniors in high-rise condo buildings could get assistance to repair their floors and repaint their walls but nothing to fix the elevators they needed to reach their units. Families in co-ops could replace their furnishings and make some repairs, but the halls of the buildings remained covered with mold and uninhabitable. Almost every district in the country has condos, and homeowners in those condo communities will continue to face the same terrible realization in the wake of new disasters.”

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Outlook, issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), forecasts an above-average hurricane season.  NOAA estimates 5-9 hurricanes, of which 2-4 will be major hurricanes (meaning wind speeds more than 110mph).  It only takes one storm to have devastating effects on a community. Without FEMA funding to aid in the recovery process, communities can be saddled with millions of dollars of recovery costs, impeding their entire recovery process.

Congressman Sanford (R-SC) plans to introduce another piece of helpful legislation, the Disaster Assistance Equity Act.  This bill expressly qualifies common interest communities for disaster assistance. Act now and ask your Representative to stand with community associations and become an original cosponsor!

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