Local governments acknowledge duty to taxpayers in private HOAs, even if FEMA denies reimbursement
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Sometimes a crisis creates an unexpected but refreshing response from one’s neighbors.
Several local governments in Florida have announced plans to assist homeowners in association-governed communities, as they struggle to remove tons of debris, including fallen trees and household furnishings and materials destroyed by Hurricane Irma’s winds and floods.
Last week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the following County and City governments have agreed to pick up debris for gated communities, and for homes on private roads, after leaders at FEMA have hinted that they might be inclined to provide reimbursement for removal of debris that creates “widespread” threats to public health and safety:
Likewise, The Hernando Sun reports that Hernando County Commissioners have voted to assist HOAs with debris removal.
It is unclear how local governments plan to pay for extraordinary services to taxpaying residents who live on private roads in association-governed communities, but some have indicated they will use Reserve funds to cover the at least part of the costs.
The general consensus among elected officials is that owners and residents of HOAs pay local taxes just like everyone else, therefore they are entitled to debris removal services.
To avoid liabilities for taxpayers, private communities seeking assistance will be required to agree to certain legal immunities if they allow publicly-funded staff or contractors to enter private property.
There are absolutely no guarantees that FEMA will provide adequate reimbursement for actual costs incurred by county and municipal governments.
FEMA rules about gated communities muddle cleanup of Hurricane Irma debris
By Stephen HudakContact Reporter
Setember 26, 2017 10:50 PM
Mounds of storm debris in a Gotha gated community worry homeowners association president Mike George, who wonders if Hurricane Irma’s mess will ever get picked up — and by whom.
“The whole area really got blasted,” said George, standing in front of a waist-high stack of sticks, logs and bagged leaves in the Oaks of Windermere, a neighborhood of 74 homes southeast of Winter Garden.
“We’re taxpayers. We’re part of the community. I’m a little surprised and extremely disappointed the county isn’t stepping up. It seems like picking this up would be common sense.”
FEMA rules have muddled the slow-moving cleanup of hurricane debris in Central Florida, where some officials, including government leaders in Orange County and Orlando, fear the agency may not reimburse the costs of hauling storm debris from gated communities like George’s.
County to remove storm debris on private property; may be funded from reserves
At the Sept. 26, 2017 Board of County Commissioners regular meeting, Chairman Wayne Dukes moved the agenda item regarding storm debris to the first topic of discussion. Mr. Dukes explained the reason for the agenda modification was to save time, and to “get this thing moving right now.”
The intent was to vote on the county using money from the reserve fund, and to contact managers of Homeowner’s Associations (HOAs) as quickly as possible, since they will need to sign agreements to allow Hernando County to begin removing debris. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not normally reimburse for expenses incurred for removing debris on private property.
Dukes commented that during a recent meeting, he said, “If there is a big enough catastrophe, we would write the checks, and I think this qualifies.”