What To Do After Weather Damage: Landlord’s and Tenant’s Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers in hurricane zones have the added responsibility of keeping their tenants and property safe. Although holding your tenant’s hands through every scary event isn’t always necessary, making sure they are prepared for weather damage is key.
When hurricanes strike, they cause massive amounts of damage. Plus, no one really knows for sure when they will strike. The extreme winds are calamitous, but the flooding that ensues is usually worse.
This year’s hurricane season has just begun. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this hurricane season is set to be strong and slightly above the average.
The agency further said there is a seventy percent probability that ten to sixteen named storms will form this year. Five to nine of those storms will form into hurricanes, with winds of at least 74 mph.
With that in mind, it’s time to remind your tenants about hurricane preparedness measures. Remind your renters that power, utilities, and water may be impacted or shut off and that they might go for a few days without access to food and other resources.
Also, remind them to follow the standard emergency preparedness guidelines.
Next, share with them what a basic disaster supplies kit should contain. A basic kit should include:
• Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
• Local maps
• Manual can opener for food
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Garbage bags, moist towelettes and plastic ties for personal sanitation
• Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place and a dust mask to help filter contaminated air
• Whistle to signal for help
• First aid kit
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
• Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
In addition, the federal emergency management agency recommends everyone to store important documentation in a waterproof container. Such documents include bank records, identification, and insurance policies.
You should also give your tenants a reminder about how they should prepare and protect the property from damage. Property preparation may include:
• Taking pictures of the property before the storm arrives. Your insurance company may need them.
• Bringing all pets indoors.
• Park vehicles under cover if possible.
• Cleaning out gutters and storm drains to ensure proper damage during the storm.
• Moving things like grills, potted plants, tools, toys, and furniture indoors. Basically, anything that could become a projectile should be kept.
• Trimming branches away from houses and buildings.
What to Do After Weather Damage: Landlord’s and Tenant’s Responsibilities
After the storm, you’ll need to assess the damage by inspecting all your properties. It goes without saying that damage resulting from hurricanes can be devastating, both to life and property.
But, between you and your tenant, who is actually liable for the damage?
As the owner, you take all risks and liabilities involved with fixed property. Thus, you are responsible for ‘vis major’ damages.
Basically, ‘vis major’ means an act of God or an unavoidable accident or calamity. Nearly all insurance policies have a Vis Major clause in them. Examples include earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, lightning, violent storms and hurricanes.
Here are some examples to illustrate this better:
• Hail Storm: The entire west side of a house had the windows broken in a hail storm. Since this is a case of ‘vis major’, you are responsible for the damages.
• Wind: The window panes were smashed when the window slammed shut as a result of sudden gale force winds. This is a case of ‘vis major’ so you are responsible here as well.
Structural damage, unless resulting from the tenant’s negligence or carelessness, is your responsibility. The tenant has no say in who is hired or what is done. Examples of structural damage include foundation damage, stuck windows and doors, sagging or wavy roof, and uneven floors.
Also, as the owner, you are responsible for damage to permanent fittings, such as curtain rails, toilets, baths or cupboards.
If the renter through gross negligence causes a fire, which results in the burning down of the house, the liability lies squarely on them. Essentially, the tenant is liable for property damage resulting from gross negligence or carelessness.
Situations that could qualify as gross negligence or carelessness by the tenant include:
• Water Damage: The tenant, while in the garage, placed a top-loader machine on a trolley. For whatever reason, the machine toppled over and flooded the whole home. Obviously, the tenant is liable for the damages. This is because it was reasonably foreseeable that the machine could topple over in mid-spin.
• Fire: The tenants manufactured methamphetamine in the kitchen and burnt down the entire kitchen as a result. Obviously, the tenants are liable for the damages. In addition, they acted illegally by manufacturing an illegal drug in your property.
Weather damage can cause a variety of problems. So, it pays to put some preventative measures in place. Besides, it’s also important to understand who is responsible for what damage once the storm has passed. Hopefully, this article has been informational in this regard.
Article by Karen Joyal