When a hurricane is forecast, it’s smart to prepare your rental units, even if you don’t think you’ll get the worst of the storm. By doing so, you’ll not only protect your owner’s investment in the property, but you can also help to keep residents and their personal belongings safe, earning their goodwill and cooperation.
If your property is located in an area where hurricanes occur, here are a few ways to protect your property during hurricane season, and tips on what to do if a storm hits.
A little prevention can go a long way toward avoiding some storm-related damage at your rental properties.
First off, review your property’s insurance coverage. Often, basic property insurance will not suffice for storm damage. Does the property have flood insurance? This covers flood damage that often accompanies hurricanes. What about hurricane insurance? If so, does it require certain parameters to kick in (i.e., winds over 100 mph)? If you or your owners aren’t satisfied with the property’s insurance coverage, the time to update it is long before hurricane season.
Additionally, you should encourage your residents to get their own coverage if they don’t already have it — you may even want to require it. The property’s insurance policy won’t cover their personal belongings in the event of a natural disaster.
With an all-in-one property management solution like AppFolio, you can easily have new residents submit proof of insurance, or even purchase their own renters insurance policy during the leasing process or from within their online portal.
Preparing for an Approaching Storm
If a storm is on the horizon, take action quickly to protect the property. Do the work yourself or hire a professional who can prepare your rental before hurricane season for intense wind and rain. To prevent glass from breaking, board up the windows. Bring in patio furniture, which could fly through the air and cause property damage.
If you manage single-family homes, reinforce the roof using hurricane straps, which help secure the roof to the walls of the home. Also, reinforce bolts on all of the exterior doors. Cleaning out the gutters allows them to function properly, draining water away from the structure. With these measures in place, you may be able to avoid or reduce flooding through prevention.
Speak with your renters about their plans to get through the storm. Tell them what you’ve done to protect the rental from hurricane damage, and point them in the direction of helpful preparedness resources, like this info from Ready.gov or FEMA. Find out whether they plan to shelter in place or evacuate, and encourage them to follow all evacuation orders and cooperate with authorities.
What to Do After a Storm
As you survey your rental property after a storm, take pictures of everything — before you complete any repairs or clean-up. Documentation of storm-related damage is key to proving your insurance claim. Call your insurance company as soon as possible. Find out what your policy covers and whether there’s anything that needs to happen before you make repairs (i.e., an adjuster must visit). Property managers and owners all over the region will be calling their insurers, so it’s important to get in the queue early.
Work with your renters to coordinate access to the apartment or house so you can survey the damage. If your residents have renters’ insurance, encourage them to take photos of damaged belongings so they can submit claims to their insurance provider.
As soon as you have documented the damage, there are some actions that should be taken immediately to protect your property against further damage. If the storm broke windows, remove the shards of broken glass and board up the window.
Look for evidence of mold – i.e. discoloration, a musty smell, and visible mold spots – within one day of flooding. Mold can cause severe damage to your property and residents’ personal health if it isn’t treated. If you see signs of mold, take pictures and notify your insurance company. Work together to determine whether you should throw away moldy items or wait for the adjuster to visit your rental.
As you interact with residents in the days and weeks following a storm, keep in mind that natural disasters can be traumatic for everyone. It’s important to stay communicative with your residents throughout the entire situation and listen to their needs. By offering support wherever possible, you will find it easier to gain their cooperation with any post-storm maintenance and repairs.