Natural disasters contribute to billions of dollars in damages globally. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the damage caused by hurricanes amounts to about $54 billion.
If your rental property is in sunny Florida, don’t be fooled by the seemingly friendly sun. The Sunshine State sees multiple storms per year – in fact, one of the worst storms to ever hit the United States was in Florida. It caused widespread chaos, particularly in the Miami-Dade County area where thousands of properties were damaged.
To protect your property from the stormy season, we’ve put together a couple of tips in this preparedness guide. By practicing these tips, you should be able to protect your property and tenants.
Do You Need Hurricane Insurance?
Before we dive into how to protect your property, you’re probably wondering if you need to get insured. The short answer is yes.
Even if you already have landlord insurance, wind-related damage due to hurricanes may not be covered, particularly in hurricane-prone states such as South Florida. With that said, you will need to purchase a separate insurance policy for wind-related damage.
Yes, it’s an additional expense, but by insuring your rental property, you won’t have to pay out of pocket whenever your property needs repairs. You can claim damages (to an extent, of course) so that your insurance company can cover the expenses. Bear in mind that wind-related damage can cost you thousands of dollars – roof repairs, for instance, can cost up to $7,000.
If you don’t know how much coverage to get, you can consult a professional property management agent. They can calculate the approximate cost to repair your property – that way, you don’t end up over-insuring your property, either.
What Can Landlords Do to Protect Their Properties?
Even if you’ve insured your property, you still need to protect it. Here’s what you need to do when the weather turns for the worse:
1. Prepare Information for Your Tenants
Your tenants may not be up-to-date on storm-related matters, so you must provide them with information on the weather as well as assist your tenants with an emergency action plan. Remember that as the property owner, your primary responsibility is to your tenants, so be sure to keep them “in the know”. The moment you find out that there’ll be a storm, send information their way immediately. Forward links to news articles, weather reports, and the like. You should also prepare an escape route (for multi-family properties) in case of a fire, directions to evacuation centers, a list of supplies they should have, and so on. If you don’t have the time to do this, you can delegate this to your real estate investment manager.
2. Protect the Windows
One of the weakest spots in your rental property is the window. Strong winds can break them open and the broken glass can cause damage to the indoor area – or worse, injure your tenants. That’s why you need to protect your windows in the form of storm shutters. Storm shutters guard your property against debris that the wind “throws” at it. Alternatively, you can use cut plywood to cover the windows.
If you’re a long-distance landlord and you don’t have the time to drive to your property to put up storm shutters, it would benefit you to partner with a property management firm. Not only will they be able to be on-site, but they will also have a network of vetted vendors whom they can call to install window shutters at a moment’s notice.
3. Trim the Trees
Trees add to the curb appeal of your property, but they can also cause damage. Tree branches can rub against the side of the property during a natural disaster, damaging its structure. Not only that, but the tree branches can snap off, fly towards your property, and crash into your windows.
That’s precisely why it’s important to trim the trees prior to a storm. Be sure to visit your property to remove any “weak spots” in the trees, such as branches that are about to break off, or ones that are directly above the roof.
Do not ask your tenant to trim the trees themselves as this is your responsibility. Besides, if a tenant falls as they attempt to trim the trees, you will be liable.
4. Inspect the Roof
There’s a good chance that the roof will get blown off. At the start of the stormy season, it’s important to schedule a roof inspection from a professional roofer. They’ll be able to pinpoint problem areas in your roof, such as spots that have worn out over the years, or parts that have started to peel off.
Don’t forget the gutters, too. Over time, dirt, debris, etc., will build up in that area, causing it to get clogged. During a storm, water should have somewhere to go, otherwise, it will pool on top of the roof, or worse, flood the property.
5. Take “Before” Photos
You won’t be able to file an insurance claim if you can’t prove that your property truly was damaged due to the storm. Remember to document your property’s condition pre-storm (indoors and outdoors) and to sort them according to their date, time, and more.
If you’ve partnered with a property management firm, they should be able to provide you with the pictures, as they will have already conducted a property inspection. Property inspections are part of a property management company’s duties.
What if the Property Is Uninhabitable After the Hurricane?
If the property is so damaged to the point where it would be too risky to live in, the tenant may be able to terminate their rental agreement. Although this is disadvantageous to you, bear in mind that your tenant’s safety is your responsibility.
You’ll Always Be Prepared With Luxury Property Care
Is your rental property in South Florida? If your answer is yes, it should be a non-negotiable to partner with a property management agent. The experts from Luxury Property Care can take care of your property during the stormy season, and guarantee that it will be protected along with its tenants. We have a comprehensive hurricane preparedness plan that will allow us to implement the appropriate safety measures in case of weather-related disasters.