As you’re well aware, storm damage restoration jobs add an extra layer of bureaucracy to a project in the form of insurance companies. The entire process flows through and is approved by an insurance adjuster, which creates a unique circumstance for contractors. Now, what happens if, on top of this added set of eyes, we add a Homeowner’s Association? HOAs have their own set of bylaws and regulations that govern the type of work that is permissible on the properties they cover. Is undertaking an SDR job with an HOA even worth the hassle?
The answer is yes. For one reason, more and more residential developments are governed by an HOA, so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the situation. Secondly, I don’t like saying no to money, and I’ll bet you don’t either. Fortunately, I have been dealing with HOAs for years in my business, and I can share with you some tips for making these kinds of jobs run smoothly and painlessly.
First, you need to get answers to a few important questions:
- Who are you contracting with? The individual owner or the HOA?
- Is the property a single family home or is it a condo/townhome that is attached to another structure?
- Are there HOA covenants (especially ones that govern the kind of material that can be used)?
- Is there a process in place for Architectural Review Boards or Committees?
You should be able to get all this information from the homeowner, but I really recommend you get the name and contact information for the HOA or management company to get these answers directly from the horse’s mouth. Confusion in this case can be costly.
HOAs and Detached Single Family Homes
Let’s assume that the property you’re working on is a single family home in an HOA governed community or neighborhood. The first order of business for you, as the storm restoration contractor, is to find the colors and material types approved by the HOA (if applicable) and get that information to the client. The client then submits those specs to the Architectural Review Board or Committee (also if applicable).
Fortunately, detached single family houses are the easiest HOA-governed properties to work with. You are usually contracting directly with the homeowner and coordinating with their insurance company, with little to no oversight or interference by the HOA. However, I do find that it’s a good idea to take care of completing the ARB/ARC forms for the homeowner to avoid unnecessary delays.
HOAs and Condos
For townhomes, condos and attached dwellings, you can start running into some issues. The important first step is to determine who has responsibility to make the repairs? This may seem obvious but it can get very complicated. Interior damage is usually the responsibility of the individual owner, with little to no HOA involvement. When a homeowner has a roof leak that causes interior damage, repair is almost always going to fall on that individual owner’s policy. However, the exterior damage that caused that leak is different. The responsibility to fix that issue largely depends on the individual policy of the owner and the policy of the HOA.
So it’s important to determine who covers what. Most HOAs make this fairly clear in their covenants and usually, the HOA is responsible for maintaining the exterior of the property (such as windows, doors, decks, roofs and siding). Now comes the fun part: getting the HOA to file the insurance claim. You see, you may be working with an individual owner whose door you knocked or who contacted you. But the entity responsible for correcting the damage is the HOA. This means you need to work with both the HOA and the individual owner.
This can be tricky because, in my experience, HOAs don’t care about what the contractor says – you’re a contractor. But the HOA will generally react if the individual property owner, who pays their monthly dues, starts being the squeaky wheel. It’s important to have the owner on your side when working with the HOA (in this scenario).
Processing Damage Claims with HOAs
Once you have established who the key players are and how their roles are defined, you need to go through the normal process of claims damage. If the HOA is willing to work with you, you can treat the HOA like any other client and show up when the field adjuster comes, help them with the claim, and all the other services you provide.
However, many HOAs work in conjunction with property management companies, which means the property management company may have their own folks to do the work. It depends on the scenario and each one will be unique so prepare for all situations.
Doing The Work
Fortunately, doing the work is typically business as usual. Your crew simply works with the Scope of Loss from the insurance company and completes the job. Just be sure that communication is open during this period. The crew cannot stray from the codes, covenants and restrictions (CCRs) created by the HOA. In fact, those CCRs can include items you may not have had to think about with other contracting jobs:
- Are there restrictions on working hours?
- Are there restrictions on street parking (location and duration)?
- Are there limitations or special use permits for dumpsters or material being dropped?
- Are there special licensing or insurance requirements you need to have in order to do the work and get paid? Some HOAs require high workers compensation limits and will withhold payment until these requirements are met.
Dealing with HOAs as a SDR Contractor may seem like a pain at first, but really it’s just a matter of doing your homework. Contact the HOA and learn their requirements, including CCRs that may govern how the work is done. Make sure you understand who you’re contracting with – the homeowner or the HOA. And remember, as always, to treat everyone you come in contact with as a human being. Not only do you want their referrals, but chances are you’ll be working with them again.