Even if you keep your rental property in excellent shape, there are certain events that are impossible to prevent. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, storms, and wildfires put your rental home and your tenants in danger. There are, however, steps you can take to minimize the impact of natural disasters.
Preparing Your Rental Home for a Hurricane
Hurricanes, otherwise known as tropical storms, can cause devastating damage to properties. From 2018 to 2019, hurricanes caused approximately $136 billion in damages. Hurricanes typically last a couple of days to a few weeks, and their severity depends on many factors such as wind speed. While tenants are ultimately responsible for their safety, there are steps that landlords can take to help prepare the rental home for natural disasters.
- Plan for evacuation. Direct your renters to useful resources on hurricane preparedness so that they can create a safety and evacuation plan for their family.
- Trim trees. Trim trees that have old and damaged branches. These can be swept up by strong winds, crashing against the rental property and putting the lives of tenants in danger.
- Conduct repairs. Repair damaged windows, doors, gutters, and so on. It is ideal to ensure that the rental home’s components are strong enough to handle strong winds.
- Prepare a supply kit. Ask your tenants to prepare a disaster preparedness kit. This should include essential items like bottled water, portable chargers, first-aid kits, non-perishable food, flashlights, and identification cards.
- Bring up the renter’s insurance. If your tenants have renter’s insurance, advise them to take photos of the property before the hurricane. Should the property be damaged, proper documentation can speed up the process of filing claims.
Preparing Your Rental Home for a Wildfire
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), more than 52,000 wildfires burned 8,889,297 acres of land in 2020. Wildfires are unpredictable and can happen at any time. They also spread incredibly fast, especially in drier regions. Advise your tenants to do the following to protect themselves and the property:
- Encourage tenants to make an emergency plan. Provide your tenants with resources that will help them create their emergency plan. This will be useful in case residents will be forced to evacuate.
- Landscape the property. Plant fire-resistant shrubs such as roses and hardwoods around the property. These plants will act as a barrier between the fire and the rental home. As a plus, landscaping can even increase your property’s value.
- Check the smoke detectors. Ensure that all smoke detectors in the rental home are functioning. Smoke detectors typically need to have their batteries replaced every six months. This practice should also be followed in your primary residence.
- Check the windows. Make sure that windows can be opened from indoors without difficulty. If the windows have screens or grills, ensure that these can be removed in a few seconds.
- Provide a fire extinguisher. Your rental property should have a fire extinguisher at the ready. If possible, you should also provide an escape ladder.
Preparing Your Rental Home for Winter Storms
When the cold season approaches, natural disasters involving snow and sleet can occur. In 2020, many communities were left devastated after winter storms brought heavy snow, ice, and winds. These caused frozen pipes to burst, roofs to collapse, and power lines to topple over.
If your rental property isn’t prepared for a blizzard, you may be facing thousands of dollars in damage. As a landlord, here are some ways to prepare your rental home for winter storms:
- Prepare snow shovels. Be sure that your rental home has several snow shovels that tenants can use.
- Secure a heat source. Should the heating system fail, ensure that your tenants have a secondary heat source that requires no power. This could be a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
- Insulate pipes. Regular property maintenance and inspections should include checking whether the pipes on your rental property are well-insulated.
Things to Do During Disaster
There are two things that you must do during a disaster: communicate and listen.
Communicate with your tenants to ensure their safety. Use a reliable property management tool that lets you blast emails or messages to all of your residents. Communicating with tenants reassures them during stressful times.
Next, you should listen to official updates from agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and others. Use available sources such as social media, television, radio stations, etc. to stay up-to-date on directives from government agencies.
Steps to Take After Disaster
Once the natural disaster has been declared over by persons in authority, you or your property managers can now assess the extent of the damages. However, if the rental property suffered serious damages, it would be ideal to wait for the FEMA or Red Cross’s green light before reentering the property. As a landlord, your safety and that of your tenants should be your primary concern.
You should also consider hiring residential emergency and disaster restoration services such as post-hurricane cleanup. Repairing the damage immediately is the best way to protect your real estate investment and tenants. Never clean the property by yourself — after-disaster cleanup should be left to professionals who have the proper equipment and safety gear.
Guidelines for Uninhabitable Rental Properties
If the natural disaster completely damaged the rental home, tenants can either vacate the premises and terminate their lease agreement, or continue occupying the habitable areas of the property.
Keep in mind that most states follow the regulations found in the Uniform Landlord-Tenant Act. This act essentially provides that tenants have the right to vacate the property within 14 days of notifying their landlord. It also provides that the tenant’s lease should be reduced, taking into account the unusable portion of the property, should they continued to occupy the home.
Be sure to seek legal advice from a local attorney. Regulations regarding uninhabitable properties vary from state to state.
Luxury Property Care’s property managers can help you take control of the situation should disaster strike. Our team is prepared to keep you, your tenants, and your property investment safe. Contact us today at (561) – 944 2992 or fill out the contact form to receive an obligation-free quote.