As soon as anyone buys a home, their first thought should be protecting that investment. As a landlord, you need to concern yourself with rental property protection more often than most, since you own and operate places in which others live or work.
The good thing is, the steps required to shield your investments against natural disasters are the same — whether it’s your personal home or a rental property. Here’s what to do beforehand, as well as how to react if adverse weather strikes.
1. Get Insurance — and Understand It
Procuring the proper insurance remains the most essential step in protecting your rentals in the event of a natural disaster. Most insurance policies will cover the basics, such as lightning, hail, and wind — in most cases, volcanic eruptions make the list, too. However, other natural disasters might not be covered and will require you to buy additional coverage.
For instance, most insurance policies don’t account for flood damage. If you live in an area prone to such an emergency, you should get a plan that includes such protection. Other weather patterns to consider include hurricanes, tornadoes, winter blizzards, and earthquakes.
It’s up to you to make sure the insurance company knows precisely what they’re covering after a natural disaster. Keep an updated record of the property’s contents and conditions so you can easily file a claim. Pictures or video will improve this file. And make sure you know exactly where you’ve stored the policy and any copies of your lease agreement. Having extra copies won’t hurt, especially if the storm also affects your home or office.
2. Encourage Your Tenant to Buy Insurance, Too
Your insurance covers your rental property in case of a natural disaster, but what happens to your tenant? It all depends on their insurance policy — and, if they don’t have protection, it could present a problem for both of you.
For instance, a tenant should be able to use their renter’s insurance coverage to find temporary housing while you repair the property after a damaging event. An empty home is obviously much safer and easier to renovate and repair. As a bonus, if the tenant happens to cause any issues during their stay, a renter’s policy would cover the deductible that your insurance would require you to pay. Those are just two reasons why some landlords include renter’s insurance as a requirement in their leases — you might consider doing the same.
3. Find Reputable Contractors
As a real estate investor, you probably already have a list of contractors you trust — if not, start compiling a roster long before a natural disaster hits. Unsurprisingly, such professionals will be swamped with work as soon as disaster strikes. So, building a rapport with multiple contractors will ensure that you can fix up your properties quickly without sacrificing safety or quality.
You might want to start researching specialty service providers who can perform the types of treatments you’ll need after natural disaster strikes. For instance, flooding or excessive rain can cause puddles to accumulate, which can bring with them mold and related health hazards. Restoration professionals can safely remove water damage and bring your rental back to its normal standard.
All of this prep work will serve you well in the long run, especially because some less-than-reputable contractors will try to take advantage of a natural disaster. As more people need their services, they’ll accept payments for work they don’t plan to complete. However, if you know who to work with and have a rapport with them already, you won’t have to worry about hiring a dodgy contractor for the job. So, start now and you can rest easy later.
4. Add Safety Features to the Rental Property
Some natural disasters appear out of nowhere, leaving your tenants to deal with them in the heat of the moment. Do they have the tools to react safely? You can help them from afar by preparing a building evacuation route that will lead them out of the building safely as quickly as possible. Installing fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, storm shutters, and other forms of protection in the rental can also be a vital resource.
Further, tenants should know where they can go to shut off utilities in the midst of a storm or disaster that could spike the electricity or burst a gas line. Instruct them to take shelter in the lowest area of the building, too — in an apartment building, be sure to provide access to a lower-level room or basement area where they can safely wait out a storm.
Protect Your Real Estate Investments from Natural Disasters
Something as simple as removing build-up from a drain pipe can keep storm rains from flooding your property. The maintenance you provide could make a huge difference, so keep your rentals in the best shape possible so that they’re well-equipped to withstand what lies ahead. When you and your tenants safely weather the storm, you’ll be so glad you did.
This article has been contributed by Holly Welles from The Estate Update.