Disasters, natural or otherwise, that threaten to damage your property are often unavoidable and can be costly to recover from. When it comes to protecting your rental homes, preparedness is the best prevention. Here are four steps to take to safeguard your investment ahead of catastrophe.
Perform Regular Maintenance
Natural disasters can inflict more damage if your property is not well maintained—not to mention the increased attraction for prowlers looking for easy entry. Schedule periodic inspections and address all maintenance concerns from tenants in a timely manner, whether it’s replacing smoke alarm batteries or fixing major plumbing issues.
Remove dead trees and branches from the yard, keep gutters and drains clean and free of debris, and minimize clutter on porches and patios. In areas where the risk of strong storms is high, install impact-resistant shutters or windows. If you aren’t able to be onsite regularly, hire a property manager you trust or work with tenants on terms and expectations.
Communicate with Tenants
Create an emergency response plan for each property you own and share it with your tenants. Include clear and specific tasks tenants must complete in case of fire, flood, burglary, or other incidents, as well as important emergency contact information and resources from your local fire department and disaster preparedness teams. Set your tenants up for success—keep a fire extinguisher visible; show them where water, gas, and electric shutoff valves and switches are located and how to turn each off; and encourage them to pack an emergency supply kit.
Install Smart Sensors
Yes, the majority of smart sensors protect standard entry points—doors and windows—from burglars. But smart sensors secure other important locations, too, by monitoring specific areas of your property and sending a notification to your connected devices if anything abnormal is detected. For example, your smart carbon monoxide alarm syncs with home automation apps on your smartphone, while smart water sensors help stem damage resulting from water leaks. Without this technology, you may not know something is wrong until your tenants notify you.
Alternatively, you can integrate these features into your monitored security system, which alerts emergency personnel directly when something is amiss. Opt for a system that offers heat, flood, and freeze sensor monitoring as well as carbon monoxide detection.
Check Your Insurance Policy
Standard homeowners insurance is designed to protect you from expenses incurred due to property damage. For rental properties, a supplemental landlord or rental dwelling policy may be required. These policies offer additional coverage for physical damage and your personal belongings left onsite, and they also offer liability for tenant or guest injury.
While you’re at it, purchase supplemental policies for natural events that are common in your area. For example, 90% of all natural disasters in the United States involve flooding, and the damage from just 1 inch of water can exceed $20,000. Most standard policies don’t cover flooding, and supplemental insurance may be required or highly recommended in certain at-risk locations,
It’s also a good idea to require your tenants to carry their own renters' insurance, as your policy will not cover damage to occupants’ personal possessions. Avoid conflict down the road by asking for proof of insurance before tenants sign a lease.
Finally, always keep your rental properties up to state and local safety codes, and develop a trusting relationship with your tenants so all parties feel empowered to respond effectively when the unexpected happens.
About the Author: Emily Long is a freelance writer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She writes about tech, home automation, and safety. When she’s not living out of a suitcase, you can find her practicing yoga, running Utah’s best trails, or attempting to perfect her coffee brewing skills.
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