Preparing Your Property and Your Tenants for Disaster
“Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” is a mantra that many use and can be wisely remembered for landlords and their properties. Natural disasters can occur anywhere, so it is essential to make sure that you, your tenants, and your property are prepared if and when disaster strikes.
Know Potential Threats in Your Area
Before investing in property, familiarize yourself with the geography of the area and the history of natural disasters from years past. Is this property in a flood zone? Is the area prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires? Educating yourself about the potential risks and the likelihood of something happening is crucial to making an informed decision and setting your property up for success. As a landlord or property manager, you should also prepare your tenants and home with the following five steps:
- Provide preparation information to tenants
- Have a set of evacuation orders that the tenants are aware of and familiar with
- Always take a detailed assessment of damages should they occur
- Follow up quickly with insurance claims
Wildfires can also cause mass destruction spanning for miles. Wildfires can happen anywhere at any time and spread rapidly, so it is essential to be prepared in the event that a wildfire outbreaks near your home. They most affect areas that experience consistent dry seasons like California, Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia. California shared this fire hazard zone map, highlighting riskier areas. San Jose property managers can see, for example, that their area is one of the higher risk areas. Preparing for wildfire season may look like:
- Remove flammable items – this includes moving curtains and any bedding away from windows, clearing at least a 30-foot radius of vegetation from your home, and installing fire-resistant shrubs if possible.
- Shut off all gas
- Ensure smoke detectors are installed and work properly
- Check that windows can be opened easily and screens removed
- Exit plan – be sure to provide tenants with an up-to-date fire extinguisher, a fire evacuation route, or an emergency evacuation ladder if applicable.
Hurricanes are massive storms that affect a large portion of the United States and can cause devastating damage to homes and communities. Hurricane season spans from approximately June through November and a storm can last for days or weeks at a time. Preparing for a hurricane should begin as soon as possible and include:
- Planning ahead – evacuation plan, filling up the car with gas, packing an evacuation bag or kit, stocking up on non-perishable foods, bottled water, batteries, candles, flashlights, etc.
- Install hurricane shutters and keep trees trimmed back during storm seasons
- Securing all outdoor furniture and items
- Making repairs that might compromise the safety of your home and tenants
- Clear out debris and trim back tree branches
- Take photos ahead of time for renters insurance in case they need to make a claim later
As winter approaches, preparation for storms and blizzards should begin. Potential damages caused by winter storms might be burst pipes from freezing and collapsed roofs from snow accumulation. Extreme cold and winter storms affect regions like North and South Dakota and Western Minnesota. Tenants may find themselves trapped in their homes if they become snowed in, so it is important to take the following precautions to prepare:
- Be sure to keep snow shovels on hand and in a place that is easily accessible
- Be sure heaters are functioning properly and that your tenants have access to heating essentials like additional firewood if they have a wood-burning stove.
- Ensure that the piping throughout the home is well-insulated and that windows are secured
- Have carbon monoxide alarms installed throughout the home
- Have your tenants keep a weak stream of water running to prevent stagnant water from freezing
File Insurance Claims
Filing insurance claims as soon as possible is one of the most important things to do after a natural disaster. Requiring that tenants have renters insurance is also an important precaution that landlords should implement to protect their belongings.
Communication is Key
Finally, keeping up a steady line of communication with your tenants is crucial in problem-solving and ensuring that they are prepared and safe.