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Your Florida Condominium Association Hurricane Preparedness Plan

Today’s post is going to be a long but important one.

Every condominium association in Florida, particularly those along the coastline and in flood or evacuation zones, should create and distribute to its residents a hurricane preparedness plan. Though realistically there is only so much planning an association can do for a natural disaster, your community will certainly be better prepared after drafting the steps community residents, Board members and association personnel should take in the event of a storm.

This post will review certain key elements of a hurricane preparedness plan. As I am not a disaster preparedness expert, I am sure there are points to consider that I have not included below. This post is meant to be a starting point for discussions among Board members about drafting a plan. For associations attempting to create a highly detailed plan, the Board may hire a consulting firm specializing in natural disaster preparedness.

The hurricane preparedness plan should be reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors annually in advance of hurricane season (official start on June 1st).

NOTE: Section 718.1265 of the Florida Statutes provides associations with specific powers in the event of an emergency (such as after a hurricane). We will discuss these powers in a separate post but it is wise to review them while creating your hurricane preparedness plan.

Insurance Issues

While discussing hurricane preparedness, the Board should review the community’s property insurance policy. In particular, the Board should be sure to understand the policy’s hurricane deductible. Hurricane deductibles are usually 2%, 5% or 10% of the insured value of the property. What does this mean? Let’s assume the community’s total property value is $3,000,000, the hurricane deductible is 5%, and a hurricane has created a total loss of the property (complete rebuild required). In this scenario, the association would need to pay a $150,000 deductible. If your community does not have the total amount of the deductible available in excess operating cash or reserve funds, it will be important for the Board to discuss how they would pay the deductible in the event of a major casualty due to a hurricane.

 Useful Hurricane-Related Links





Florida Condo Association Hurricane Preparedness Plan

I recommend breaking a condo association hurricane preparedness plan into four main sections which, for ease of use, should be constructed like “to do” lists: (1) Routine Preparation, (2) After a Tropical Storm or Hurricane Warning, (3) After an Evacuation Order, (4) After a Tropical Storm or Hurricane. These four categories should address both what the association should do and what residents should do. We will look at these four categories in detail below.

Routine Preparation

Resident Routine Preparation

  • Obtain a Local Hurricane Guide: Most municipalities in Florida produce hurricane preparedness guides that include evacuation plans, shelter locations, important contact numbers, survival kit recommendations, and more. The association should consider obtaining copies of these guides and making them available to residents.
  • Update Your Contact Information: Unit owners and residents should make sure that the association has their accurate phone number, address and email address.
  • Hurricane Shutters, Windows, Doors & Garage Doors: Unit owners should consider installing hurricane shutters (if the association has not already done so, discussed below). Further, if unit owners are responsible for repair and replacement of windows, doors and/ or garage doors per the association’s governing documents, unit owner should consider installing Miami-Dade County approved versions of these fixtures.
  • Disabled Resident Assistance: Any residents that would need assistance in the event of an evacuation should inform the association and also reach out to their city and/ or county to sign up for emergency aid.
  • Consider Homeowner’s Insurance: All unit owners should consider homeowners insurance (generally called a HO-6 policy) for their condominium. As we have discussed in past posts, per Florida Statutes Chapter 718.111(11)(f), in the event of a casualty to the condominium property, unit owners are responsible for repairing or replacing the following items:
    • All personal property
    • Floor, wall and ceiling coverings
    • Electrical Fixtures
    • Appliances
    • Water heaters
    • Water filters
    • Built-in cabinets and countertops
    • Window treatments including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware

Think about what this means. If a hurricane came through and there was a total loss, the association’s insurance would rebuild the building and your unit. However, the unit would have only sub-flooring (no carpet, tile or wood floors); would have no electrical fixtures; no cabinets, countertops or sinks; and no water heater or other appliances. Also, the insurance statute only requires that the association’s insurance rebuild the property with products similar to those that were originally installed. So, let’s say you recently replaced all your cheep original windows with very high-end, impact resistant windows. Unless your insurance covered those new windows, you would be out of luck. Without insurance coverage, replacing these items can create a major out-of-pocket expense for unit owners.

  • Photograph Your Home and Valuables: It is worthwhile for every unit owner or resident to photograph their condominium to capture on film all of the personal property within a unit. After a storm, this can be a helpful way to identify items that are missing. For unit owners with homeowners insurance, photographing the property (and valuable items in particular such as TVs) may make processing claims with their insurance companies much easier. It is prudent to contact your insurance company and ask them what they would ideally like to see in the event of a major claim post hurricane. They can typically provide guidance on how to properly prepare.
  • Create a Survival Kit: Keep a survival kit in your home that you can grab in the event of an evacuation. A survival kit should include, at a minimum, fresh water supply, batteries, canned goods, proper identification, important documentation (e.g., birth certificates, social security cards, insurance policies), proof of ownership of your condominium (possibly necessary to get back onto the condominium property after a severe storm where major damage was sustained), cash, and medications.
  • Learn about FEMA: Unit owners should familiarize themselves with FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, which provides assistance to people whose property has been damaged or destroyed. Identify who to call and how to apply for aid in the event your home is unlivable after a storm.
  • Volunteer to Aid the Association: The association should consider encouraging unit owners to aid management and the Board in securing the property prior to a storm. Board members and property managers have their own homes to take care of and, because of this, it is not unusual for common areas to be neglected. Consider creating a list of willing residents and their contact information and update this list annually.

Association Routine Preparation

  • Tree Trimming: All associations should make sure that their palms and other trees are properly trimmed at least once per year in advance of hurricane season. There is quite a bit of controversy over whether or not palms should be hurricane cut. It is my opinion that hurricane cutting your palms can not only damage your palms but also create damage to property during high winds. Learn more about this here and talk to your landscapers today.  For those of you in and around the Tampa Bay Area, I highly recommend Fieldstone Landscaping Services for all of your landscaping needs. They have done a tremendous job with our property over the last three years.
  • Unit Access: Associations should have the keys to access each unit. I recommend making it a rule of the association that unit owners provide the association with keys to their unit. Unit access is particularly important in the aftermath of a hurricane if representatives of the association need to inspect property damage. Associations should consider testing the keys to each unit annually.
  • Resident Contact Information: Associations should make sure they have accurate phone numbers, addresses and email addresses for all residents. Contact information should be confirmed with each resident routinely.
  • Videotaping of Property: The property should be videotaped annually for insurance purposes. I would recommend providing copies of this videotape to your insurance broker, property manager and at least one Board member. Contact your insurance company and ask about their hurricane preparedness recommendations.
  • Vendor Lists: The association should have a list of known vendors that may be useful to the association after a storm. Relevant vendors may include restoration specialists, landscapers, plumbers, electricians, and insurance contacts. This list should include the contact information for each vendor and should be distributed to each Board member and management.
  • Official Records Storage: If your hard copy records are stored in a hurricane-resistant facility and your electronic records are stored in a web-based system, then there is nothing more that needs to be done. If not, consider purchasing watertight containers for your hard copy records. For electronic records, make sure they are being backed up onto an external hard drive or a web-based storage system at least weekly.
  • Hurricane Shutter Guidelines: Per Florida Statute Chapter 718.113(5), every condominium association in Florida is obligated to adopt hurricane shutter specifications (e.g., color, style) that unit owners must follow should they choose to install hurricane shutters. Boards cannot deny a unit owner the right to install hurricane shutters. Board members may, however, decide to install hurricane shutters on all units at the association’s expense. As this is a complicated topic, we will be dedicating a future post to it. In the meantime, please contact us if you would like assistance creating a hurricane shutter policy for your community.
  • Board of Directors/ Volunteer Education: All Board members and storm preparation volunteers should have a property “how to” guide. This should include instructions on how to operate any security, fire safety, irrigation, pool, elevator and other systems on property.   Further, maps should be distributed to this group detailing the locations of electrical meters, fire system panels, water shutoffs and any other relevant property features. Training sessions should be conducted annually.
  • Boarding Windows Policy/ Contracting: Associations should discuss the possibility of boarding the community’s windows (either all of them or simply the common element windows) in advance of a storm. Associations may consider contracting in advance with a vendor that will arrive on property upon issuance of a tropical storm/ hurricane warning to board the windows. If the association does not intend on boarding windows, a policy should be established regarding residents’ ability to board their windows from the outside.
  • Hurricane Disaster Response Contracting: For communities in high-risk areas, it may be wise to consider contracting with an engineering firm that specializes in hurricane disaster response. This type of contract guarantees that the firm will come to the property within so many days after the storm to survey the damage, provide a full written report of the necessary repairs, and, in some instances, bid out and supervise the work. This can be very helpful to the association and its insurance company. These firms are often swamped with work after a storm and, therefore, associations that have not pre-contracted with them may be out of luck. Typically, this type of a contract requires the association pay a several thousand dollar retainer annually which would be applied to their services if ever necessary. I have never worked directly with a hurricane disaster response team before; however, I have spoken at length with the engineers at Delta Engineering (serving all of Florida) about their hurricane response services. You may consider contacting them if you are interested in setting up a contract like this for your association.

After a Tropical Storm or Hurricane Warning

 Resident “To Do” List

  • Clear Patios & Balconies: Residents should bring any personal property on patios or balconies inside their units.
  • Designate a Safe Room: Designate a room in your unit that provides the most shelter from the storm. Typically, this is an interior room with no windows.
  • Stay Tuned: Keep the radio or TV tuned to emergency frequencies, the local news, or the weather channel for regular updates.
  • Consider Boarding Windows: If the association has not already done so, consider boarding your windows. If you are unable to board your windows from the outside, boarding them from the inside will still help to protect the interior of your home.
  • Establish An Evacuation Plan: Residents should know their community’s evacuation zone, where they will go once an evacuation is required and the location of the nearest shelters (including if the shelter accepts pets – see www.floridapets.net).
  • Charge Your Electronics: All residents should charge cell phone, camera and laptop batteries and consider purchasing backup batteries.
  • Prepare Your Vehicle: Residents should fill up their cars with gas and check tire pressure. The sooner this is done the better, as lines at gas stations tend to get longer as the storm approaches.
  • Fill Your Bathtub: Consider storing drinking water in large containers or in the bathtub, as tap water may not be safe to drink for some time after the storm.
  • Set Freezer & Fridge to Coldest Settings: Residents should set their freezer and refrigerator to the coolest setting to protect food for as long as possible in the event that electricity is lost. It is prudent to have several days’ worth of food on hand that does not require refrigeration.
  • Protect Personal Property: Residents should consider moving valuable items away from windows and doors. A supply of towels should be kept on hand to address any water entry during the storm.


Association “To Do” List

This list should be sorted in order of priority. Each action item should have sufficient detail for anyone to be able to complete the task. A specific person or vendor should be assigned to each task on the list.

  • Distribute the Hurricane Preparedness Plan: Consider re-distributing the hurricane plan to all residents via email or door posting. Place extra copies in common areas.
  • Emergency Board Meeting: Set up a meeting for the Board and management to review the hurricane plan and discuss each person’s responsibilities.
  • Emergency Community Meeting: Set up a meeting for residents to attend to ask any questions they have.
  • Invoice Payment: When possible, pay all invoices due in the coming two weeks to avoid any late charges.
  • Electronic Records: If relevant, make sure all electronic records are backed up onto hard drives. At least one Board member and the management team should have a copy.
  • Hard Copy Records: If relevant, place all hard copy records in watertight containers and place them in a high location. Better yet, determine if a Board member or manager is able to remove the records from the property and place them in a secure location.
  • Unplug Electronics & Appliances: Turn off and unplug any association computers, faxes, printers, camera systems, gym equipment, appliances or other electronics. If possible, remove electronics from the floor and place them in the highest available location.
  • Black Checks: Consider signing enough blank checks to distribute one to each Board member and one to the property’s manager. These may be used to begin restoration efforts after the storm.
  • Outside Property: Any exterior property (e.g. pool furniture, potted plants, dog waste stations, recycling bins, dumpsters & seating areas) should be brought inside. Certain items may be placed into the pool as well if there is insufficient inside storage. Any property that cannot be moved should be strapped down or otherwise secured.
  • Propane Tanks: Any propane tanks should be shut off.
  • Common Air Conditioners: Shut off any common area air conditioners.
  • Irrigation System: Turn off the association’s landscaping irrigation system.
  • Window Boarding/ Hurricane Shutters: Board windows and/or lower hurricane shutters as previously agreed by the Board.

 After an Evacuation Order

Resident “To Do” List

  • Traffic Check: Residents should check local evacuation routes to determine which is the best option and leave as quickly as possible (traffic becomes heavier the close the storm becomes).
  • Refrigerator and Freezer Clean Out: To avoid rotting food if power is lost, refrigerators and freezers should be cleaned out prior to evacuation.
  • Unplug Electronics & Appliances: Turn off and unplug any computers, printers, routers, coffee makers, and other appliances or electronics. If possible, remove electronics from the floor and place them in the highest available location.
  • Water Shut Off: Residents should shut off the unit’s main water source.
  • Electricity Shut Off:  Residents should turn off the electricity prior to leaving using the breaker panels in their units.

Association “To Do” List

This list should be sorted in order of priority. Each action item should have sufficient detail for anyone to be able to complete the task. A specific person or vendor should be assigned to each task on the list. Given that property managers and association employees/ contractors will likely need to tend to their own homes and families immediately preceding a storm, it is wise to assign these tasks to Board members or other resident volunteers. 

  • Communicate Evacuation: Send an email to the community and post notices in common areas of the evacuation requirement.
  • Disabled Residents:  Provide evacuation assistance to any disabled residents.
  • Check Each Unit: Knock on the door of each unit, if possible, to ensure all residents have evacuated.
  • Disable Access Systems: Unlock or open any entrance gates or doors so that residents may flow freely in and out of the property. The association may consider reactivating these systems after all residents have evacuated to deter possible looting post-storm.
  • Disable Elevators:  After all residents have evacuated, disable all elevators on the top floor of the building.


After a Tropical Storm or Hurricane

Resident “To Do” List

  • Returning to the Property: Prior to returning to the property, residents should obtain the “go ahead” from local authorities and the association. Once it is safe to return to the property, the association should inform residents via email or the community’s website.
  • Proceed with Caution: Returning to a damaged property can be dangerous. Local government generally provides guidance on things to consider when returning after a storm in their hurricane guides. The Red Cross also puts out a comprehensive guide on this subject.

 Association “To Do” List

This list should be sorted in order of priority. Each action item should have sufficient detail for anyone to be able to complete the task. A specific person or vendor should be assigned to each task on the list. Given that property managers and association employees/ contractors may need to tend to their own homes after a storm, it is wise to assign these tasks to Board members or other resident volunteers.

  • Survey & Photograph Property: Board members or mangers should return to the property when possible to survey the damage and photograph the property for insurance purposes.
  • Communicate with Residents: Associations should be sure to communicate routinely with residents via email or via the community’s website. Residents should be informed of the status of the property, the actions the Board is taking, and when they can come back. The association should identify any areas of the property that are off-limits due to extensive damage and communicate these areas to residents.
  • Hold Board Meeting:  Boards should hold a meeting as soon as possible (even if via phone) to discuss next steps.
  • File Insurance Claims: Associations should begin filing claims immediately. Insurance companies are often swamped with claims after a storm and the longer the association waits to file a claim, the longer it will likely take for the claim to be processed and payment to be received.
  • Consider Payment Options: After a hurricane, if major damage has been sustained, associations will likely have to pay a sizable deductible (discussed above) before their insurance companies will cover any damage. If an association has enough operating or reserve funds to cover the hurricane deductible, than the association may use such funds. However, if the association does not have funds available to cover the deducible, they may need to consider obtaining a line of credit.
  • Contact Appropriate Vendors: Associations should immediately contact their preferred vendors to begin cleanup and obtain bids for repairs. Landscaping companies typically offer a cleanup service to remove plant debris from the community. Further, the association’s fire safety systems vendor should complete a full inspection of the community’s system immediately to ensure it’s up and running.
  • Repairs List: Boards or property managers, in coordination with hurricane disaster specialists, restoration specialists or other vendors, should create a full list of necessary repairs in order of priority. The cost of each item should be included.
  • Power & Water: Reestablish power & water when feasible
  • Access Systems: Reactivate property access systems
  • Window Boards/ Hurricane Shutters: In situations where window glass is not broken, remove window boards and lift hurricane shutters.
  • Elevators: Reactive elevators
  • Association Property: Return all association property to standard locations

If you have any questions about establishing a thorough hurricane preparedness plan for your association, please do not hesitate to reach out.



Emily Shaw is a condominium homeowner in Tampa, Florida and a Director of VERA Property Management, a firm providing full-service community association management in the Tampa Bay Area as well as consulting, financial and legal services to all Florida community associations. 

Water Leaks in Florida Condominiums: Association Responsibilities and Cost Reduction Strategies

Leaks are common in condominiums and are a constant headache for associations. Given this, you’d think there would be straightforward and consistent process for handling leaks to ensure that everyone shares the burden of repairing the water damage fairly, and in accordance with the association’s governing documents and the Florida Statutes (Chapter 718.111(11) Insurance). Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and more often than not homeowners, or the association, have to come out of pocket to repair damage caused in whole or in part by another. This blog will examine the division of responsibilities and will recommend strategies the association may use to help protect itself and its homeowners.

Rule of Thumb: When dealing with property maintenance or repair, look to the governing documents to determine who is responsible. When dealing with damage caused by a casualty, look to Florida Statute 718.111(11)(f) to determine who is responsible.

Per Florida Statute 718.111(11)(f), the association is responsible for everything except the following, for which the unit owner is responsible: all personal property within the unit or limited common elements, and floor, wall, and ceiling coverings, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters, water filters, built-in cabinets and countertops, and window treatments, including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, and similar window treatment components, or replacements of any of the foregoing which are located within the boundaries of the unit and serve only such unit.

The legal and insurance community has taken the above to mean that “drywall out” is the responsibility of the Association but “drywall finishes (i.e., texture and paint) in” and “bare floor up” are the homeowner’s responsibility.

Example 1: A Toilet Leak, A Water Heater Leak, A Washing Machine Leak or A Hot Water Heater Leak

A 2nd story homeowner’s toilet has suddenly begun to leak due to a faulty wax ring, causing damage to the homeowner’s unit as well as the ceiling, walls and floors of the unit below. The association’s documents state that repair and replacement of toilets is the homeowner’s responsibility. As such, the homeowner is required to repair or replace the toilet. However, the damage resulting from the leaking toilet is considered a casualty and would fall under the Insurance Statute.

In this example, there are three parties involved: the Association, the homeowner whose toilet caused the leak, and the below homeowner.  We will assume for now that there was no negligence on the part of the homeowner with the leaking toilet (i.e., the homeowner didn’t know, or shouldn’t have known, that the toilet was leaking or going to leak). In this scenario, responsibility for damage caused by the leak would be divided as follows:

  1. The Association will repair the drywall and any damaged studs, insulation or electrical wiring within the walls.
  2. The homeowners will individually repair the personal property within their units, any damaged flooring, and the finishes on the drywall (e.g., paint, texture or wall paper).

Each party may contact their respective insurance company (condominium homeowner’s are not required to have insurance per the Florida Statutes but they may per the governing documents) to help cover the cost of the repairs.

The condominium statutes are silent regarding who is responsible for the cost of the initial dry out of the unit after water damage (i.e., removing standing water and installing proper fans). Obviously both the homeowner and the association are protecting their property by ensuring that all water is removed, no further damage is caused, and no mold issues develop. A proper dry out can be very costly and it is up to the association and homeowner to decide who will pay for this service. In my experience, it is easiest for the association to pay for the dry out as it moves the repair process along and ensures the association is meeting its fiduciary duty to protect the condominium property (failure to properly dry out a unit could cause deterioration to structural parts of the building). Another option is to split the cost with the homeowner. Further, if the homeowner has insurance, and intends to file a claim, the insurance company will often pay for the cost of the dry out.

Example 2: A Toilet Leak, A Water Heater Leak, A Washing Machine Leak or A Hot Water Heater Leak With Homeowner Negligence, Intentional Conduct or Failure to Comply with Association Rules

According to 718.111(11)(j), if damage to the condominium property is caused by homeowner negligence, intentional conduction or failure to comply with the rules of the association, the homeowner is responsible for repairing ALL portions of the damaged condominium property not covered by insurance proceeds. Further, according to 718.111(11)(g), when a homeowner is determined by the association to meet the criteria listed in paragraph (j), the association may complete the repair work to the condominium property (excluding the personal property of the homeowners) and charge the cost of the work to the homeowner. If the homeowner fails to pay, the association may collect the cost as if it were an assessment (see our blog on Collections Policies for more information). The homeowners that have sustained damage to their personal property (i.e. everything covered under Florida Statute 718.111(11)(f)) have the option to pursue legal action against the negligent homeowner.

So, in our example, let’s say that a plumber told the homeowner previously that the wax ring needed to be replaced in the toilet or a leak may occur but the homeowner chose not to make the repair. Or, let’s say that the wax ring actually began leaking because the homeowner (or homeowner’s guest) attempted to make a repair to the toilet himself and failed to properly reset the wax ring. In these case, the homeowner could be perceived as being negligent and the association may choose to complete a full dry out of the unit as well as make all repairs to the common elements (i.e. drywall out), and charge the homeowner that create the leak for the full cost. This statute gives the association a significant amount of power and the association should be careful as to how they enforce it. Negligence is often a matter of perspective and the burden of proof is on the association. As such, the association should obtain an opinion from legal counsel before deciding if they consider a homeowner negligent or not.

Enforcement Tip: Negligence is a very tricky topic. To avoid the likelihood of a legal battle, the association should build negligence into their rules and regulations whenever possible by creating a clear-cut definition of actions that are considered negligent.

As it relates to leaks due to an unexpected casualty, one such rule would be: “Homeowners MUST turn off the water to their unit if the unit is going to be vacant for more than 48 hours”. Leaving water on when there is no one in the unit that would notice a leak has been considered negligence by Florida courts in the past. Because the Board would adopt this as a rule of the association, Florida Statute 718.111(11)(j) allows the association to charge the homeowner who has not complied with this rule the full cost of repairing damage due to a water leak stemming from their unit. This is a particularly effective rule given that leaks from vacant units are frequent and tend to cause more damage than those from occupied units.

Another rule may be: “Homeowner’s (or their guests) must provide proof of liability insurance prior to completing any repairs or renovations to their units. With this rule in place, if a homeowner caused a leak themselves (which happens frequently) the association will either have the homeowner’s insurance information already and can immediately place a claim, or, if the homeowner failed to provide proof of insurance, the association may charge the homeowner the full cost of repairing the damage to the common elements caused by the leak.


Example 3: Professional plumber causes leak while replacing shower faucet

A 2nd story homeowner hires a plumber to replace the shower faucet. The plumber did not properly seal one of the connections, which began to leak and caused water damage to the ceiling and walls of the unit below. In this scenario, the plumber’s liability insurance would likely cover the cost to repair all damage to the property (including the homeowners’ personal property). However, if the plumber is not insured or refuses to provide his insurance information to the effected parties, the cost of repairs may end up falling to the association and the homeowner who suffered water damage, or their respective insurance companies. The association and/ or effected homeowner could choose to take legal action against the plumber and/ or the homeowner who hired the plumber but this can often be cost-prohibitive, particularly if the damage was not severe. To help reduce the burden on the association and effected homeowners, the association can choose to put specific rules in place relating to maintenance or renovation work completed by a 3rd party vendor.

Enforcement Tip: The association should consider making it a rule that homeowners MUST utilize licensed and insured vendors, and must provide to the association proof of liability insurance for any vendor working within their unit prior to work commencing. As some vendors may be less willing to provide their insurance information after they have caused a leak at a job site, this requirement protects the association and homeowners, as it will allow the association to immediately place a claim for the damage. Further, if the homeowner failed to obtain proof of insurance, Florida Statute 718.111(11)(j) allows the association to charge the homeowner who has not complied with this rule the full cost of repairing damage to the common elements.

Developing proper strategies for preventing and responding to leaks is a complicated topic and should be discussed with the association’s attorney. A “leak action plan” should be established for all representatives to follow. To avoid legal action, consistent and effective response is key. When making changes to the association’s rules and regulations that have the level of impact these “negligence” rules do, it is important that the association communicate to the membership to ensure that homeowners are properly informed of the new rules.

Feel free to reach out with any questions.



P.S. If you are a condominium homeowner who has recently experienced a water leak and you are looking for clarification on your rights and responsibilities, please contact us. Ryan (my husband/ co-blogger) offers legal counsel and practical advice on these issues at a reasonable hourly rate for our readers. There are no retainers required or minimum fees. Send me an email at emily@flcondoassociationadvisor.com and I will respond promptly with more information and next steps.