Dealing With Disaster

Most of the time, owning a rental property involves a fairly predictable list of recurring tasks centered around maintenance, repair, recordkeeping, and maybe the occasional noise complaint. Then there are the emergencies that come out of the blue and have to be dealt with urgently. One of those emergencies is damage from extreme weather.

There is no doubt that the climate is changing. As recent events in Texas demonstrate, it’s important to prepare for “once in a lifetime” weather events, which are now happening far more frequently. According to a report from RealtyTrac, more than half of all U.S. homes are located in areas prone to tornadoes, earthquakes, or hurricanes. About 71 million housing units, or 55 percent of the nation’s total, fall into the high-risk category, with 10.6 million of those classified as very high risk.

So now, imagine that the worst has happened.  A storm of unprecedented size has barreled through your region, and your rental property has been hit. What do you do?

Taking action

First, check on the welfare of your tenants and any staff at your property. If anyone has been injured, call 911 immediately.

Before entering the building, assess any damage to the exterior. Make sure there are no signs of structural damage and look for any hazards such as downed trees or power lines. Once you’ve determined that it’s safe to enter, check if there is any standing water inside. If so, immediately turn off the electricity and the main water supply.

Once it’s safe, take photographs of all of the interior and exterior damage. You will need documentation for any insurance reimbursements.

Make any temporary fixes or immediate repairs that are necessary to prevent further damage. Cover any any broken doors or windows and stop any leaks in the ceiling with tarps or plywood.

When it’s time to make permanent repairs, focus on preventing damage next time.  Don’t assume that the storm you just endured is a non-recurring event. In fact, assume the opposite. You or your contractor should use the most durable materials your budget will allow. It’s okay to have an eye on the bottom line for your repairs, but don’t cut costs at the expense of your building’s and your tenants’ safety.

Being prepared

Before there’s ever a weather-related event, make sure that you have a plan in place for the next steps in the event of an emergency. On the tenant side, you should make sure that they have a clear understanding of what to do in an emergency. It’s also a good idea to encourage your tenants to create an emergency kit. If you’re not sure what to include in an emergency kit, The Red Cross website has some excellent resources. Another preventative measure you should take is requiring your tenants to have renters insurance.       While no one likes to think about the potential for a weather-related disaster, taking action now can reduce the severity of any damages you might experience. Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency will help keep you, your property, and your tenants safe.


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