How Landlords Should Handle a Natural Disaster

Oftentimes, natural disasters uproot ongoing lives in cities and raise havoc in heavily populated areas. Whether you have recently experienced a flood, tsunami, earthquake, landslide, or hurricane there are many steps landlords and tenants can take to handle the damage. Here is what you should know about handling property damage caused by natural disasters.

Common Scenarios Between Tenants and Landlords

After experiencing a natural disaster with varying effects and damage on property, four general scenarios may arise between tenants and landlords. The first scenario includes both parties wishing to cancel the agreement for rental occupation. The second scenario involves the landlord wishing the tenants to vacate the property but the latter opposing the move. The third scenario is when both the landlord and tenant wish to stay in the property and the fourth includes the landlords wishing the tenant to continue occupying the property but the latter wishing otherwise.

How Should Landlords Approach Tenants? 

If both the landlord and tenant are in agreement, the contracts and repair services are relatively simple. Mutual agreements between the tenant and landlord, whether choosing to stay or move out, should be solidified with a written contract. However, if the landlord wants the tenant to relocate, they must provide them with a 30-day notice. They can also provide a 60-day no cause notice if the tenants have occupied the property for over a year. It is important to note that landlords cannot charge their tenants for any damage caused by the natural disaster. However, they can charge for expenses of damage that are not related to the natural disaster.

Washer/Dryers and Dishwashers Require Preventive Maintenance to Avoid Flooding

Several appliances in the home can cause damage to the apartment where they are housed as well as to neighbors’ apartments, says Ira Meister, founder and CEO, Matthew Adams Properties, a leading property management firm.  While these incidents are not frequent, they can be costly and are easily preventable.

Specifically, Meister cites washer-dryers and dishwashers.  If a break occurs in a water line, it can lead to serious flooding in the apartment and also to the downstairs neighbor’s unit.  Floors, carpeting, walls, art, furniture and many other expensive items can be damaged

Meister encourages residents to replace the water supply lines that come with the clothes washer with specialized long-lasting lines, such as those marketed by Floodchek.  The weaker lines can break, yet still continue to carry water that can cause flooding.  The hoses should be checked annually for kinks, cracks, stiffness or brittleness. The replacement costs only $10-$20, while a flood can cause damage in the thousands.  There should also be a shut-off value in the event the line breaks.

Always install a backflow preventer on the appliance, Meister says.  This can also be installed in dishwashers. This would be useful if the internal valve sticks and water starts to back up and forces hot water into the cold water lines.

An important preventive measure for clothes dryers, Meister says, is cleaning the vent that connects the dryer to the flu.  This should be done at least annually using a vent brush or vacuum to remove the lint. Lint buildup can decrease the efficiency of the appliance and eventually have the lint back-up into the dryer.  A blocked vent can create excess moisture in the room and possess a fire risk.

The lint trap in dryer should be cleaned prior to every use.

It is also wise to have homeowner’s insurance that covers flooding accidents in both your apartment and a neighbor’s.

Ira Meister’s Fire Safety Tips

.Since childhood, we’ve repeatedly heard tips on fire prevention and what to do if there is a fire

“While most of us have heard these tips, they bear repeating,” says Ira Meister, founder and CEO, Matthew Adam Properties, a leading property management company. “And remember, one of the easiest and most important steps is to check the smoke and carbon detectors in the apartment.”

When clocks are moved each spring and fall, there are announcements that residents should check their detectors, Meister points out.  Unfortunately, many people ignore this.  It is easy and takes less than a minute.  Each detector has a test button that can be pushed to see if the battery is charged.  The city recommends changing the battery every spring and fall.  Detector batteries also give off a shrill sound when they are dying, a sign to replace them. These detectors, by the way, are required for all apartments under city law.  The city also recommends changing smoke detectors every 10 years and carbon monoxide detectors every five to seven years.

In addition to having the detectors in apartments, buildings should place them in the hallway as well as in incinerator rooms and the garage, Meister says.

Ira Meister Keeps His Residents Safe and Secure 

Equipment that should be checked periodically by building staff are the sprinklers and standpipe located in stairwells to make certain that all are working properly.  This can be done by outside contractors.  Yet, Meister believes the best procedure is to have it done by the superintendent, who has been received certification from the city.  Certification requires taking an approximately 25-hour course and passing a written exam.

The benefit of having certified staff is two-fold, Meister says. The inspections should be conducted monthly and doing them in-house is much less costly. Secondly, in the event of a malfunction, personnel are on-hand who are familiar with the system.

Residents, particularly those with children, should develop a fire evacuation plan and also remember to obey Fire Department instructions.  This would include knowing when to leave an apartment, and when to stay, having an escape route to the exits in the event of a heavy smoke, arranging for a meeting point and what to do if it is best to stay in the apartment.   As a quick guideline, Meister says, fire travels up, so if the fire is below, evacuation should be considered.  If the fire is above the apartment, it may be best to stay in the unit.

There is considerable literature available on fire safety from the city and Fire Department.

“It doesn’t take much time to be prepared, and it can save lives,” Meister says.