Service Animals and the ADA!

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a “service animal” is only a dog that is individually trained, works or performs tasks for individuals with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disabilities. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

It is important for the hospitality industry to understand what qualifies are a service animal under the ADA. The ADA does not recognize comfort animals, therapy animals, or companion animals. An animal whose sole function is to provide therapy is not a “service animal” under ADA.

How to verify?

In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal.

For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her. Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

There are specific rules under the ADA that are tailored specifically to hoteliers and public service accommodations. Please contact us, your business law attorneys for more information. Staying informed helps limit ingenuine service animals and support and welcome your guests and comply with ADA.

Source: ADA

1031 Like Kind Exchange Tips

1031 Like Kind Exchange Tips -Identifiying Properties 

With Real Estate being so hot, we have seen such an increase in 1031 Like Kind Exchange’s in the past few years.

Here are a few tips to consider when thinking about doing the exchange:

The Basic 1031 Identification Rule Is:

The Exchanger has only 45 days from the day of closing on its relinquished property to identify possible replacement property.

WARNING: Section 1031 and the IRS regulations thereunder have strict requirements for the identification of replacement property.

Identification of all replacement property must be made in writing, must be signed by the Exchanger, and must be delivered to the Qualified Intermediary on or before midnight of the 45th day.

The Exchanger may identify any type of investment or business real property in the USA, including a single-family rental, apartment building, hotel, office building, warehouse, vacant land, shopping center, etc.

The Exchanger/Taxpayer may not identify replacement property or amend its identification after the 45th day has expired.

Identifying Multiple Properties:

The Exchanger may identify more than one property, as follows:

(1) The Exchanger may identify as many as three (3) properties, regardless of their total value (known as the “3-Property Rule”) See Example # 1 below; OR

(2) The Exchanger may identify any number of properties provided their aggregate fair market value on the 45th day does not exceed 200% of the aggregate fair market value of all of the Exchanger’s relinquished property on the date of its transfer (known as the “200% Rule”) See Example #2 below; OR

(3) The Exchanger may receive, by the end of the Exchange Period, Replacement Property which the Fair Market Value of, is at least 95% of the aggregate Fair Market Value of all of the Replacement properties identified (known as the” 95% Rule”) See Example #3 below.

“The Exchanger is not required to acquire all the property it has have identified. Therefore, many gurus in our industry recommend that the Exchanger identify alternative properties should the closing on the Exchanger’s preferred property fail for any reason. Any property acquired prior to the 45-day Exchanger’s identification expiring, counts as an identified property.”

EXAMPLE #1 – 1—3 PROPERTY RULE:
Mr. and Mrs. Trembling (Exchangers) sell their investment property that they have owned for 17 years for the sum of $695,000.00. They, within 45 days of the relinquished transaction, e-mail to their Qualified Intermediary a list of three (3) properties for the following amounts: Property # 1: $1,200,000.00; Property #2: $500,000.00; Property # 3; $400,000.00.

As long as the Exchangers purchase property of equal or more value than their relinquished property ($695,000.00) any tax they may have owed will be deferred. There is NO dollar amount limitation on the properties they have identified. The only limitation they have using this rule is that they can only identify 3 properties.

EXAMPLE #2 – 200% RULE:
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson (Exchangers) sell their investment property that they have owned for 3.5 years for the sum of $500,000.00. Within the 45-day time limit, they e-mail to their Qualified Intermediary, the following list of possible Replacement Properties: #1: $150,000.00; #2: $300,000.00; #3: $250,000.00; #4: $100,000.00; and #5: $199,000.00.

The Exchangers are allowed to identify any number of properties, but they cannot total together more than 200% of what they sold.

The 5 properties they identified combined total: $999,000.00, which is under the $1,000,000.00) they would be allowed to identify and therefore their Identification is valid. They do not have to purchase all of these properties, but if they want to defer all of their gains, they must obtain at least $500,000.00 of replacement property.

EXAMPLE #3 – 95% RULE:
Mr. Thomas Franklin (Exchnager) sells his investment property for the tidy sum of $800,000. He identifies the following properties as possible replacement properties: #1: $600,000; #2:$ 300,000; #3: 900,000; #4: 700,000 and #5: $200,000.

The total valuation of all the properties together is: $2,700,000.

He cannot use the 200% rule because he has identified more than 200% of his relinquished property’s selling price ($800,000 x 200% = $1,600,000). But he can still use the 95% rule. He must purchase 95% of the valuation price of the properties he identified. That would be: $2,565,000 ($2,700,000 x 95% = $2,565,000). If he purchases less than the 95%, his 1031 exchange will be disqualified.

After reviewing the above 3 Rules for Identification, most Exchangers select the 3 Property rule, because it is a lot easier. It has no dollar amount restrictions, but the exchanger is limited to only 3 properties for identification purposes.

Source: Stephen Wayner of Liberty 1031.

DISCLAIMER: We always recommend that the taxpayer consults with their tax and/or legal counsel on all matters dealing with the Internal Revenue Serice.

SECTION 1031 (TAX DEFERRED EXCHANGES)

SECTION 1031 (TAX DEFERRED EXCHANGES) VS. SECTION 1033 (INVOLUNTARY CONVERSIONS) ON INVESTMENT REAL ESTATE

More and more people are having their property taken by a governmental agency through eminent domain proceedings.  So, let’s briefly discuss some of the information that will help during this process.

Question: What options are available to me as the Taxpayer, when my investment real estate is involuntarily converted (taken from me)?

Answer:  The Taxpayer has two major options.  They can either use Section 1031 and transact a Tax Deferred Exchange or use Section 1033 for tax deferral purposes.

Question:  What are the basic rules for a Section 1031 exchange?

Answer:     There are 6 basic Rules on a Section 1031 Exchange:

 (1)  Both the property sold  and the replacement property (the new property) must be held for use in a trade or business or have been held for investment purposes. IMPORTANT NOTE: the replacement property can be any type of investment real estate.  So, you could sell a condominium unit and replace it with a piece of raw land, as long as they were both investment properties or used in a trade or business.

(2)  The 45 day identification time requirement.  The Taxpayer has up to 45 days from the day of closing to identify what the Taxpayer may want to purchase.

(3)  The 180 day purchase of replacement time requirement.  The Taxpayer has up to 180 days from the closing to close and purchase the replacement property.

(4)  Taxpayer cannot touch the funds from the sale of the relinquished property.  As a result, the funds from the closing are given to an independent third party to handle the exchange portion of the transaction.  That independent third party is called a Qualified Intermediary.  Liberty 1031, LLC is a Qualified Intermediary.  Liberty 1031, LLC is also responsible for preparing all of the 1031 documentation.

(5)  The Same Taxpayer Rule.  The Taxpayer of the relinquished property must be the purchaser of the replacement property.  There are some possible variations to this rule.  Be sure to discuss this item with your Qualified Intermediary and your Legal and/or Financial Advisor.

(6)  Replacement Property.  In order to defer paying any taxes (Long Term Capital Gains, Depreciation Recapture Tax, and Possible State Taxes), the Taxpayer must purchase investment replacement property of equal value or more than the property that was relinquished (sold) and must reinvest all of the cash proceeds into the new replacement property.

Question:  What are the basic rules for a Section  1033 transaction?

Answer:     There are 4  basic Rules on a Section 1033 taking:

(1)  There is no requirement to hire a Qualified Intermediary.

(2)  The property is involuntarily converted when one of the following events occurs: the property is destroyed by fire, earthquake, hurricane or some other destructive event;  or the property is seized, without governmental compensation, which makes this type of conversion somewhat irrelevant;  or a governmental agency exercises it power of eminent domain or there appears to be an imminent threat of a requisition or condemnation (the property owner must be aware of the threat and must reasonably believe that a condemnation is likely to happen).

(3)  There is a Partial Conversion—occurs when  a portion of the property is involuntarily converted.  Important Note: If the taking of the real estate portion taken renders the operation of the business or use of the property economically impractical, then the Taxpayer could sell the whole property and defer taxes on the entire property when obtaining a replacement property.

(4)  Timelines for Property Held for Productive use in a Business or Trade or for Investment Property.  The Taxpayer has up to 3 years from the date the converted property was disposed of or the date of a threat or imminence of requisition or condemnation.

 Question:  So which Section should a Taxpayer use?

Answer:  A number of knowledgeable CPA’s have advised their clients to use BOTH sections.  By using both Section 1031 and Section 1033, the Taxpayer would first use Section 1031, where the funds would be distributed to the Qualified Intermediary.  The Taxpayer will then have 45 days from the closing of its relinquished property, to identify their possible replacement property(ies).  Taxpayer also would have 180 days from the closing of the relinquished property to purchase a replacement property. The advantage of doing a Section 1031 tax deferred exchange for the Taxpayer is that the replacement property can be any type of investment real estate, for example:  a commercial piece of real estate for investment raw land.  Should the Taxpayer fail to complete its 1031 exchange, then the escrowed funds would be distributed back to the Taxpayer.  The Taxpayer could then continue with a Section 1033 Tax deferral to find and close on another property.  BUT, under Section 1033, the replacement property must be very similar to or related in service or use, to the property that was taken, in order to have no gain recognized and  not taxed.

One final comment:  It is ALWAYS advisable that the Taxpayer speak with their Legal and Financial counsel whenever dealing with an involuntary conversion.

Source: Liberty 1031

Post-Hurricane Scams Targeting Real Estate Owners!

ATTENTION all Real Estate Owners!

BEWARE OF SCAMMERS
There have been talks of some individuals attempting to take advantage of real estate owners post-hurricane recovery situations. Insurance, debris removal, and tree removal scammers are actively working in storm affected areas.

Do not sign anything regarding an “assignment of benefits” from a potential contractor.

If you have any questions regarding reviewing paperwork to be signed, please reach out to your Real Estate or Business Law Attorney.

 

#GulatiLaw

Prepare for Hurricane Season- Helpful Tips!

Please utilize the resources below if necessary. I also encourage you to share this information with your friends and neighbors as we work together to recover from this storm- Hurricane Michael.

FEMA ASSISTANCE

To apply for FEMA assistance visit: www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) TTY: 1-800-462-7585. To find the nearest FEMA Disaster Recovery Center visit: https://egateway.fema.gov/ESF6/ DRCLocator

EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

If you need emergency help call 9-1-1.

BASIC SUPPLIES

If you need supplies, such as food, water, or ice, please contact your county emergency management at: http://www.floridadisaste r.org/fl_county_em.asp or by phone at (850) 815-4001 for the location of the nearest distribution center. Your county emergency management can provide up-to-date information about shelters and local distribution centers for food and supplies.

HELP FOR SENIORS

If you know of a senior who needs assistance call the Florida Department of Elder Affairs hotline at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337). To report elder abuse, call 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).

HELP FOR VETERANS

Veterans in need of assistance or in need of their medication can contact the Veteran Disaster Hotline at 1-800-507-4571 or go to any VA medical facility for assistance.

MENTAL HEALTH

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress please call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained counselor. You may also visit: http://bit.ly/2vH2Huc for more information about managing stress after a disaster and talking with children about traumatic events.

DIALYSIS

To find a dialysis center in your area visit: http://www.dialysisunits.com/. Patients of DaVita Dialysis may contact 1-800-400-8331 to find the nearest Dialysis Center.

MORTGAGE RELIEF

To find out if you qualify for temporary mortgage relief, visit the Freddie Mac website at: http://www.freddiem ac.com/about/hurricane-relief.html , the Fannie Mae website at:http://www .fanniemae.com/portal/about-fm/hurricane-relief.html or by phone at 1-800-2FANNIE (800-232-6643). To contact the Federal Housing Finance Agency visit:https://www.fhfa.gov/Homeownersbuyer/MortgageAssistance/ Pages /Disa ster-Assistance.aspx

You may also contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to find out if you qualify for any hurricane related help with your mortgage or mortgage insurance. To contact HUD about disaster assistance visit: https://www. hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/ins/203h-dft or https://www. hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/nsc/qaho0121

TAX RELIEF

Taxpayers in affected areas may be eligible for tax relief from the IRS. To learn more about IRS assistance visit: https://ww w.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-in-disaster-situations.

DISASTER RECOVERY LOANS

The U.S. Small Business Administration is providing various disaster loans to qualifying Floridians. For more information about SBA disaster loans visit:https://www.sba.gov/disaster-ass istance/. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides loans to qualifying individuals, businesses, and communities after disasters. For more information visit: https://www.usda.gov/topics/d isaster/storms, or contact the USDA office in Florida at: (352) 338-3400.

DISASTER UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE

Floridians who are unemployed as a result of a disaster, and who are ineligible for regular state unemployment insurance, are encouraged to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) through the U.S. Department of Labor. For additional information about DUA visit: https://workfo rcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/disaster.asp or contact the U.S. Department of Labor by phone at 1-866-487-2365.

HURRICANE RESPONSE HIRING

The U.S. Small Business Administration is hiring a variety of temporary positions located throughout areas affected by recent disasters. For more information visit:https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/hurricane-response -jobs -sba< /a>. For FEMA hiring visit: https://careers.fema.gov/hur ricane-workforce.

FEMA ASSISTANCE

For in-person assistance with storm related questions, visit your local FEMA Disaster Recovery Center. For a list of centers in your area visit: https://egateway.fema.gov/ESF6/ DRCLocator or call 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) TTY: 1-800-462-7585.

Be aware of SCAMS: Federal and state workers never ask for or accept money, and always carry identification badges. There is no fee required to apply for or to get disaster assistance from FEMA, or the State of Florida. If you suspect fraud call FEMA’s Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or the Florida Attorney General fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226.

RESOURCES

Emergency Assistance 9-1-1

Local resources (food, shelter, childcare,) 2-1-1

Food, water, ice distribution https://www.floridadisaster.org/, 850-815-4001, TDD/TTY: 1-800-226-4329

County Emergency Management Offices https://www.floridadisaster.org /counties/

Shelters www.floridadisaster.org/sh elter-status/

Florida Highway Conditions: www.flhsmv.gov/f hp/traffic/live_traffic_feed.html, or dial 5-1-1 or *FHP (347)

Florida Elder Affairs Hotline 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337)http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/

Veteran Disaster Hotline www.va.gov, 1-800-507-4571

Disaster Distress Helpline (for emotional distress) 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746

Blue Tarp Roofs (Army Corps of Engineers) 1-888-ROOF-BLU

FEMA www.disasterassistance.gov, 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) TTY: 1-800-745-0243

Source: BILL NELSON OFFICES IN FLORIDA

Big Moves in the Hotel Industry

Marriott plans to remove plastic straws Worldwide by July 2019!

Marriott International today announced that it has adopted a plan to remove disposable plastic straws and plastic stirrers from its managed and franchised properties by July 2019. The move will impact 6,500 properties across 30 brands around the world, and could eliminate the use of more than 1 billion plastic straws per year and about a quarter billion stirrers. The company says that its timeline gives hotel owners and franchisees time to deplete their existing supply of plastic straws, identify sources of alternate straws (which hotels will offer upon request), and educate staff to modify customer service.

Here are Gulati Law we strive to protect our enviroment, and are also following the same plan.

Not so Fun Fact: According to Google, over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. Currently, it is estimated that there are 100 million tons of plastic in oceans around the world.

#GoGreen #SavethePlanet

Source

Non-Tax Reasons to do a Section 1031 Tax Deferred Exchange

The majority of our clients and referral sources are aware that doing a Section 1031 tax deferred exchange allows Taxpayers the privilege of deferring the payment of their federal capital gains taxes, depreciation recapture taxes and state income taxes (if any) on the property they held for investment or on the property that they used in their trade or business.  

So, deferral of payment of taxes is a major reason astute Taxpayers use Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code.  But there are numerous Non-Tax reasons to do a 1031 exchange.  I will try to cover some of these reasons in this 1031 information missive.  Let’s begin:  Non-Tax reasons to do a Section 1031 Exchange:

1. Taxpayers may want to sell a property that they have fully depreciated and exchange into a more expensive property that can have additional depreciation.

2. Taxpayers may want to exchange a property that is not producing income into a piece of property that does produce an income stream.  A typical example would be the exchanging of a piece of raw acreage into a replacement property, such as an office building, that would produce a positive cash flow.   A lot of retirees do this type of exchange, because they are looking for an additional income stream in their retirement years.

3. Taxpayers’ “Property of Their Dreams,” becomes available and so they exchange an investment property they are not particularly fond of for the “Property of Their Dreams.”

4. Taxpayers exchange a property that is not producing a satisfactory cash flow for another that will produce a larger cash flow.

5. Taxpayers want to diversify their investments.  They might own one large property.  They could sell the large property (relinquish it) and purchase (replace) with numerous investment properties.   They may want to diversify because they would like to have properties in various different states, so that if one state has an economic problem, the rest of their assets are not affected.  Or they might want to own different types of property.  For example, they could exchange a large office building and replace it with a small strip shopping center, an office condominium, and other property–all being different types of real estate.  Remember–the property sold (relinquished) must be “like kind” to the property purchased (replaced).   In the case of real estate, all investment real estate is “like kind” to any other type of investment real estate.

6. The Taxpayers may want to exchange a property that is not appreciating at the rate they would like for another property that has a better possibility for increased appreciation.

7. The Taxpayers may decide to do a 1031 exchange because the present property they own may be harder to sell in the future and the replacement property may be easier to dispose of in the future.

8. The Taxpayer decided to relocate to another state and would like to have all of their investments within a reasonable distance from where they live.   This becomes especially important to the Taxpayer who must manage and oversee their investments personally.

9. Consolidation is an important concern to many of our clients.   They own a number of investment properties and managed them for a number of years.  They have decided that it would be better to own fewer, but more expensive investments.   This could decrease the Management responsibilities, as a larger/more expensive property is more conducive for hiring a management company to take care of the investment.

10. Multiplication and Leverage–no I’m not talking about 3 x 3 = 9.  Many Taxpayers are hoping that through their investments, their net worth will appreciate.  For example:  A Taxpayer who owns a piece of property valued at $500 that will appreciate 10% in a year, will have an investment worth $550 at the end of the first year (appreciation of $50 that year).  A Taxpayer who exchanges that $500 (I am presuming there is no debt on the property to make this example easy to understand) for a $2,000 investment (that would be 25% down–$500–with the remaining $1,500 in borrowed money) would have at a 10% appreciation factor, a $200 appreciation that year.  We know which is more–$200 is more than $50.  So, through multiplication and Leverage–the Taxpayer’s net worth can appreciate at a much quicker pace.

11. Reduced Management Responsibilities–I know I have intimated this reason above, but it is a very important reason that many Taxpayers transact a 1031 exchange.  They exchange the property they presently own and replace it with one with less management headaches, or replace it with a property that they don’t have to manage at all, such as a Tenant-in-Common/Delaware Statutory Trust type of property–that is professionally managed by others.

12. Exchange out of a property they own a partial interest in–and exchange into a property they will own just by themselves.  That way they no longer have to get an approval to do anything to or with the property from their “co-owner.”

13. Estate Planning is a major reason Taxpayers should do a Section 1031 exchange.  Although this 1031 Information Missive is titled Non-Tax Reasons–I just had to sneak this one in because, if done correctly, most Taxpayers will pay NO tax when doing a Section 1031 exchange and at the Taxpayers’ demise, their heirs will receive these assets at a stepped-up basis—-and it’s very likely that there will be no estate taxes.

Courtesy of: Liberty 1031

Commercial Developers- Environmental Update-Sand Skink Season

If you have property that you are planning on developing, or obtaining development approvals, before March of 2019, in Lake, Polk, Marion, Highlands, Putnam, and portions of Orange and Osceola counties that meet the 3 criteria established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), i.e. location, soils, and above 80′ msl elevation, then you are required to conduct a survey for the Florida sand skink.

The survey is a two-tier approach. First, a pedestrian survey is conducted. This can be conducted any time of the year. If the results are negative, than a coverboard survey is initiated. You can only conduct the coverboard survey for sand skinks from March 1st through May 15th and the survey must occur over 4 straight weeks.

The USFWS requires the placement of 40 coverboards, 2’x2’x.50″, per acre. The boards are to be made of plywood or another similar rigid material. The coverboards should be allowed to acclimate for 7 days before the first sampling event. Each board is to be checked for signs of sand skinks a minimum of once a week for 4 straight weeks.

Following the completion of the survey, a report is prepared and submitted to the USFWS. The USFWS will issue a “Clearance Letter” if the survey was negative for the presence of sand skinks. The boards can be deployed at anytime.

Guest writer- Stillwater Enviromental

Actions to Take When a Hurricane Threatens for Individuals & Business Owners

When a hurricane threatens your community, be prepared to evacuate if you live in a storm surge risk area. Allow enough time to pack and inform friends and family if you need to leave your home.
Secure your home:
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows.
  • A second option is to board up windows with 5/8 inch exterior grade or marine plywood, built to fit and ready to install.
  • Buy supplies before the hurricane season rather than waiting for the pre-storm rush.
 Stayed tuned in:
  • Check the websites of your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office.
  • Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other radio or TV stations for the latest storm news.
  • Follow instructions issued by local officials.
  • Leave immediately if ordered!
If NOT ordered to evacuate:
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level during the storm.
  • Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
  • Stay away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm, but at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force winds coming from the opposite direction.
Stay informed. Visit www.floridadisaster.org to find Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. Text FLPREPARES to 888777 to receive updates via text or use the Florida Emergency Information Line 1-800-342-3557. For live updates on Hurricane Irma, follow the State Emergency Response Team @FLSERT on Twitter and Facebook. VISIT FLORIDA is also providing weather updates and official source links for visitors to keep up with the latest changes here.Register your business with FLVBEOC. Register to report your open/closed business status, complete a business damage assessment survey and request or offer resources. Businesses may also report their status to esf18@em.myflorida.com and via the Private Sector Hotline 850-410-1403.

Know before you go. For up-to-date traffic information, visit FL511.com or call 511. Use GasBuddy to find gas stations with fuel.

Learn re-entry requirements. Governor Scott has issued an Executive Order that rescinds all weight and driver restrictions for highways so water, food, fuel and emergency supplies can be quickly brought to Florida. After the storm, individuals and businesses seeking to provide essential commodities and services to impacted areas will be allowed re-entry by possessing and presenting specific documentation to local officials. Learn what you need.

Provide emergency accommodations and have compassion for cancellations. Those seeking available lodging may find and reserve a room here. Reserve by brand here. During this emergency, lodging operators are strongly encouraged to waive cancellation fees and to not require minimum stays for evacuees. In preparation for FEMA’s potential activation of the Emergency Lodging Assistance program, lodging operators are encouraged to sign-up here.

Extend hospitality to pet evacuees. FRLA strongly urges its members, and the industry at large, to consider waiving normal pet restrictions and fees for evacuees seeking shelter and safety during this catastrophic storm. Search for pet-friendly lodging on BringFido.com or PetFriendlyTravel.com.

Follow power outages. Find a map of statewide power outages here. FPL customers can use the FPL Power Tracker map, and report or track outage information at www.FPL.com/outage or call 1-800-4-OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243).

Food safety tips. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, there may likely be power outages and flooding.  Both pose a risk to the integrity of food and water. For a guide to food safety during severe storms, visit the USDA or Florida’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants to learn guidelines for emergency recovery.

Free WiFi access. Comcast has opened more than 137,000 free Xfinity WiFi hotspots throughout the state for individuals in need, including non-Xfinity customers, to help residents and emergency personnel stay connected. Find a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots here.

Report price gouging. As the entire state of Florida is under a declared state of emergency, Florida’s price gouging law applies statewide. Learn how to comply and/or report violations online or via the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226.

Filing insurance claims. Florida’s Division of Consumer Services offers assistance to insurance consumers in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma by offering the insurance Consumer Helpline 1-877-693-5236Learn more.

For additional information and continued updates, visit FRLA’s Hurricane Resource Center for a comprehensive guide of tips on how to stay safe during the storm and how to recover and rebuild.

Most of all stay safe our Florida family, friends, colleagues and clients!
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Sources: AAHOA, Visit Florida, FRLA

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Gulati Law