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Hurricane Protection Update: What Does All This Mean For Owners Of Florida Condominiums

May 9, 2024

In this week's article let's get into considerations and details of Hurricane Protection for condominium buildings and communities. Some Florida COAs install Hurricane Shutters or storm-rated windows and sliding glass doors on the entire building, including all individual units. In other Associations and buildings, storm protection on individual unit windows and doors is the separate responsibility of each owner. The decision to do one or the other depends on the recorded Governing Documents, available funds, insurance considerations, and the desires of the Association as a whole.

When the Association pays for the installation of Hurricane Shutters or storm-rated windows and doors on the entire building, the COA may also be responsible for maintaining, repairing, and replacing them as needed. Keep in mind that when the Association pays, it is using money collected from all owners.

You may want to review my introduction to Hurricane Protection and products before continuing. Here is a direct link: - An Introduction to Hurricane Protection for Single-Family Homes (

Florida's Condominium Act (Florida Statutes Chapter 718) specifically addresses COA Board authority and responsibility as they relate to storm protection for common elements (areas) and individual residence units. In fact, the Condo Act requires Boards to establish color, type, and style standards for any Hurricane Shutter or protection product to be installed on the building(s).

Standards and specifications adopted by a COA must comply with County or City building codes and product approvals in effect at the time of installation. Building specifications apply to shutters and/or storm-rated windows and doors paid for by either individual owners or by the Association.

The Condominium Act states in part: "Notwithstanding any other provision in the residential condominium documents, if approval is required by the documents, a board may not refuse to approve the installation or replacement of Hurricane Shutters, impact glass, code-compliant windows or doors, or other types of Code-Compliant Hurricane Protection by a unit owner conforming to the specifications adopted by the board."

Attorneys tell us this means that the COA Board may not refuse owners' requests to install (at their own cost) Hurricane Shutters over their individual unit's windows and sliding glass doors, or to replace existing windows and doors with new-code rated ones. All condominium Governing Documents that I have ever read include a requirement for owners to get Board approval before installing windows, doors, or storm shutters. (Be sure to get written approval and save it in your files.)

Recently-constructed condominium buildings in Florida already have Code-Compliant and storm-rated windows and doors, so this discussion applies to existing buildings more than about 12 years old.

Specified Hurricane Protection for a condominium building states the type, style, and color of products approved by the Association and may include language like:

• White accordion shutters, stacking equally to both sides of windows
• Tan accordion shutters mounted floor-to-ceiling at the outside edge of balconies/lanais, inside the hand rail
• Manually-operated (from inside the unit) white roll-down shutters over fixed exterior windows; white accordion shutters covering balcony sliding glass doors (SGDs)
• Wind-rated, fixed (non-opening) windows in exterior building walls; left-opening wind-rated SGDs with dark bronze extruded aluminum frames

The reasons for an Association having specifications for Hurricane Shutters and storm-rated windows go far beyond just the building's appearance and all units looking the same from the outside.

Any type of storm protection will be installed on/in the building's exterior structural walls which are common elements shared by all owners. Under just about all Florida COAs' Governing Documents, unit owners are prohibited from modifying (or installing anything on) common elements. Since the Condominium Act allows storm protection on individual units, and any shutter product or storm-rated window must be installed on/in a building's exterior walls, the Board has the authority to require that all products comply with the building's specification and be installed according to current local building codes.

It is very important for condominium unit owners to know whether their windows, sliding glass doors, and entry doors are maintained by unit owners or the Association. Either arrangement is possible, depending on what the Governing Documents have to say. Speak with your Board of Directors for clarification.

High-rise condo buildings have their own storm protection considerations, especially when they are on (or close to) the coast. In a recent article, we discussed how impact from flying debris is the main concern when protecting Single-Family Home window and door openings, which also applies to the lower floors of condo buildings. In high-rises, the main consideration is wind loads, both positive and negative.

The lower floors of taller condo buildings have to deal with impact from flying debris and some wind load. The upper floors of the same building won't usually be subjected to flying debris, though will have to resist MUCH higher wind loads than lower floors.

This is why Product Approval letters contain wind pressure tables for various building heights (elevations), and building permit applications for installation contain engineering calculations for expected wind loads on a specific building. Shutter and window/door products are tested and rated for wind pressures (PSF), not for wind speeds (MPH).

Fast-moving wind reacts to a tall building in its way being similar to an airplane wing. As wind approaches a building, it flows up and around, exerting both positive (pressure) and negative (suction) wind loads on different surfaces of the same building and everything attached to it.

The upper floors of taller buildings are subjected to stronger and faster wind than lower floors because higher level winds do not have to deal with the "friction" of structures, trees, and other obstructions at ground level. For this same reason, coastal high-rises are exposed to higher wind loads than similar buildings farther inland. Wind coming across open water does not encounter much friction to slow it down.

Product approval laboratory testing measures both impact resistance and the ability to withstand positive and negative wind pressures. Keep in mind that as a hurricane travels, wind direction can change multiple times so buildings must be able to resist changing wind loads coming from different directions.

Interesting note - Negative pressures on a building are usually higher than positive pressures from the same wind. During hurricanes, unprotected and/or improperly installed windows and their frames are often pulled out of taller buildings' exterior walls from negative pressure, ending up on the ground below rather than being blown into the building.

Remember the "building envelope" concept from my past article.

What does all this mean for owners of Florida condominiums who want to protect their individual unit's openings?

If you already have shutters or storm-rated windows and doors, you're likely in good shape. Be sure to inspect storm shutters at the start of hurricane season to clean, lubricate, adjust any moving parts, and check the proper function of roll down shutter electric motors. Many reputable shutter companies provide this maintenance service at a reasonable charge.

If you do not yet have window and door protection for your own condominium unit and it is up to owners (not the Association) to install any protection product, check to see what your building's shutter specification is, then get estimates for installing them. At the same time, get estimates for replacing your windows and doors with storm-rated ones that meet the building's specs. See last week's article for descriptions, benefits, and limitations of different storm protection products.

My personal opinion is that low-rise (1-2 floors) condo buildings should have storm protection. It is each owner's responsibility to protect their individual unit's openings. Conversely, I feel mid and high-rise buildings are better served when the Association protects the entire building's windows and doors with code-approved products.

(After Hurricane Andrew in Miami, I spent much of the 1990s involved with product testing and approvals, insurance considerations, and new building codes as they related to storm protection for Single-Family Homes and condominium buildings. Part of that work included riding swing-stages up the outsides of high-rise condo buildings in Miami, Key Biscayne, Hollywood, and Fort Lauderdale, installing some of the very first Dade County - approved Hurricane Shutters.)

The decision on whether to do full-building protection or leave it to individual unit owners is complicated, requiring input from many sources and an Association vote. If Operating or Contingency funds are not available, a full-building installation may have to be funded with a Special Assessment or bank loan. Reserve funds cannot be used for this purpose.

Important - HB-1029, the My Safe Florida Condominium Pilot Program was passed during the 2024 legislative session which makes State financial grants available to Florida Condominium Owners Associations for storm damage mitigation measures, including new-code windows and SGDs. The program is not yet fully active, and requires very specific (and complicated, in my opinion) inspection and application procedures in order to be considered for grant funding. Stay tuned for updates.

Here are a few reasons why installing storm protection on the entire building might make sense for some Florida COAs, especially those in high-rises:

• A unit on the 5th floor has Hurricane Shutters or storm-rated windows and SGDs installed, yet the unit just above on the 6th floor has no protection. A storm blows out a couple windows in that 6th floor unit, allowing wind-blown rain to enter and leak down into the protected 5th floor unit from the inside. Installing storm-rated windows and doors in the entire building could have significantly reduced the possibility of this scenario.

• Hurricanes hit Florida in the summer and early fall, when many seasonal residents are "up north." Owners are supposed to secure their units when they leave, though that doesn't always happen. If all units have the same shutters, management can see from the ground which units they may still have to secure as a storm approaches. If all units have storm-rated windows and doors, management time and effort to secure individual units are significantly reduced.

• New code storm-rated windows and doors in a building (especially an older one) can make all units in it more attractive to potential buyers, supporting property values in the building.

• An Association's insurance premiums for common element windstorm protection may be reduced because risk of damage and loss is lower.

That's it for this week, a quick overview of hurricane protection for Florida Condominium Associations and buildings. Use discussion points from this article when addressing your building's storm protection and damage resistance with your Board, management company, and other owners.

Editor's Note: Christopher Carter is NOT an attorney. He does not give legal advice. For interpretation and application to specific circumstances of anything you read in this article, you must speak with a Florida-Licensed attorney.

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