Natural disasters—and the damage they inflict—are unpredictable, and frantic preparation in the hours before a storm arrives can leave important tasks unfinished. If you own rental property in an area that’s at risk for hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires, or other natural events, take these preventive measures early and often to protect your investment.
Make a Property-Specific Plan
Preparedness is the best protection against a natural disaster, so devise a disaster response plan for each property and share it with tenants. Include clear and specific responsibilities you expect to delegate before, during, and after any incident as well as important emergency contact information. When creating an action plan, it’s important to include any and all natural disasters that may occur, says Sage Singleton, a home safety expert with SafeWise. “Teach your family and tenants about the natural threats relevant to your location and know what to do should something occur.”
Educate Your Tenants
In addition to an emergency action plan, share with your tenants some best practices for safeguarding their belongings and, in turn, your property. Keep a fire extinguisher accessible and show them how to use it. Identify the location of water, gas, and electric shutoff valves and switches and give instructions for how to turn each off. Request that tenants regularly inspect and test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, replace dead batteries, and report maintenance issues in a timely manner. Rentler offers free property maintenance software to create and track maintenance requests easily. Encourage them to secure shelves and furniture, to pack an emergency supply kit, and to carry renters insurance to cover their own items in case of damage.
Beef Up Your Insurance
If you own property in an area that is at a high risk for natural disasters, read your current insurance plan carefully and add supplemental coverage if necessary. Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States—90% of all natural disasters involve flooding—and the damage from just 1 inch of water can exceed $20,000. Most home insurance policies don’t cover flooding, but flood insurance may be required or highly recommended for certain at-risk locations, says Singleton. The average cost of flood insurance is $700 a year—a small price to pay compared to the out-of-pocket cost of renovation and remodeling, she adds.
Protect Your Electrical System
Storms of all kinds, from summer rains to hurricanes, threaten power lines. Joel Worthington, president of electrical services company Mr. Electric, recommends installing surge protectors to safeguard sensitive electronics and a backup generator to keep water flowing, sump pumps going, and electricity moving to key appliances in the event of an extended power outage. Never install generators in enclosed areas—this increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning—and never operate in rainy or wet conditions.
Maintain Building Exteriors
A messy lawn and cluttered porch not only looks bad—it also puts your property at risk for major damage from wind and rain. Preemptively remove dead trees and branches, keep gutters and drains clean and free of debris, and find space inside for all loose objects, including patio furniture, garbage cans, and garden equipment. In locations that have the potential to experience strong winds, install impact-resistant shutters or windows. “This is one of the most important things you can do considering a broken window would leave the rest of your property vulnerable to wind, rain, and flying debris,” says Ready To Go Survival founder and CEO Roman Zrazhevskiy.
It goes without saying that regardless of natural disaster risk, your rental properties should always be up to code and meet safety standards set out in state and local laws. Schedule regular inspections, address maintenance concerns in a timely manner, and work with your tenants to keep your spaces safe and secure.