Posts Tagged ‘Property Management’

2018’s Hot Item: Online Rent Collections

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

by Becky Bower | ApplyConnect

Let’s face it – physically collecting rental checks is outdated. It requires you to invest a lot of time into recording the payment into your tenant ledger, and standing in line at the bank to deposit it. This process doesn’t even include enforcing late fees, bounced check fees or any time spent talking to a tenant that doesn’t have the rent. Bring your rent collections into the future by switching to a convenient, easy, and hassle-free online solution in 2018.

While you might be accustomed to your current rent collection process, there are a few benefits to having an online option that manual procedures don’t have.

The five benefits to providing online rent payments  are:

  1. Automatic Bank Transfers

Don’t dread the 1st of the month any longer. With an online rent collections solution, you won’t have to stand in that long line at the bank to deposit your rent checks. Your tenant’s rental payments will be automatically transferred into your bank account, allowing you to maintain rent collections during an emergency or that well-deserved long vacation.

  1. Tenant Notifications

If you have renters that are notoriously forgetful when it comes to paying the rent, then tenant notifications could be the solution for you. Many online rent collection services will send your tenants a text message and/or email reminder when a payment is coming up. Of course, once a payment is made, you’ll get a notification that the funds were received as well.

  1. Track Payments on Any Device

Manually inputting rental payments into a ledger (whether it’s a spreadsheet or physical ledger) is time consuming and tedious. Track your tenant’s rental payments online instead. This way you’ll be able to see payments that are pending, have been already made, and the total funds that you’ve received from your Dashboard. Each payment is timestamped, so you can easily determine if you need to charge late fees.

  1. Roommate Payments and AutoPay

Allowing your tenants to use multiple debit cards or checking accounts to pay the full rent balance will open up your door to new renter possibilities. Not only can it attract new applicants, but it can increase your relationships with your roommate-based households who will appreciate an easier way to split the rent (upping your chance of tenant retention). Roommate renters who are able to pay with their own bank account (versus frantically pooling the rental amount at the end of every month) are more likely to enable AutoPay – automatic monthly payments. Online rent collection features like these make it easier and more convenient for your renters to pay, and for you to get your rent.

  1. It’s Secure

The problem with physical rent checks is that they can very easily get lost or stolen. Someone could swipe your rent from your mailbox, office, or car. Far more likely, checks can get lost in the mail or somewhere on the way to the bank. With online rental payments, every payment undergoes bank-level encryption, eliminating the risk that your rent will get stolen. In addition to adhering to ACH security requirements, identity authentication is a common security practice among online rent collection services.

While some form of physical rent collections will always exist in the rental industry, online rental collections are not only a more convenient solution for you and your tenants, but it keeps your property competitive within the market. With the time saved from switching online, you can better focus on marketing your other properties, maintaining the rental property, and other vital day-to-day tasks. Plus, who wants to go to the bank every month?

Becky Headshot_Pro.jpgBecky Bower is a writer for the ApplyConnect® Blog and the communications executive at ApplyConnect®, a consumer initiated tenant screening company.  She has also spent several years in compliance and auditing.  Becky holds a degree in English with a focus in creative writing from CSU Channel Islands and is a published writer.

Pet-Friendly Rentals: Pros and Cons

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Shared post by  | Appfolio

Property managers have to make some hard choices when they decide to establish rules for their rental units. According to a helpful report from Michigan State Extension, deciding to allow or prohibit pets might be one of those tough decisions. Before deciding, it’s a good idea to carefully examine the pros and cons of running a pet-friendly rental property.

Pros and Cons of Pet-Friendly Rentals

Obviously, properties that allow pets can expect to attract a wider range of applicants. According to Michigan State Extension, pet owners may tend to be more responsible because they have assumed responsibility for a pet. In many ways, pet owners aren’t so different from parents. They may also tend to keep their leases longer, perhaps because they have fewer choices about where to live. It’s also important to be aware of the laws allowing service animals; it’s critical to remain compliant to avoid legal issues.

Drawbacks of Allowing Pets In

While it’s easy to agree that few people have anything against pet owners, it’s the pets themselves that may cause a problem. Property managers may have a few problems when they open their doors to lots of animals:

  • Dogs may bite, threaten, or annoy other residents. They could generate insurance claims and even cause some people to move out. Some renters may have serious allergies to pets as well.
  • Pets cause odors and make messes. If renters don’t clean up after their animals, the property may incur additional costs.
  • Insurance companies may raise premiums for some kinds of pets. Since some animals pose additional risks, insurers may charge property managers more for insurance.

Why Consider Having a Pet-Friendly Complex?

One thing that might offset some of the risks and costs of allowing in pets is the chance to earn more money. For instance, pet-friendly rental properties can increase revenues by charging extra fees or even non-refundable cleaning deposits to pet owners. It’s up to the property managers to make sure this extra revenue offsets extra cleaning or insurance costs. Also, by increasing the available pool of applicants, some properties may even be able to charge higher rents. At the least, it should be possible to increase occupancy rates in some properties that have been difficult to rent.

Steps to Take Before Opening a Property to Pets

First, property managers should check with their insurance companies to see if allowing pets will impact their premiums. Some insurers allow most breeds of dogs, cats, fish, and birds with a minimal or even no additional charge. Allowing pets doesn’t mean that the property has to allow all kinds of pets. Obviously, few property managers would be happy to see a renter move in with an adult chimp or six-foot python. However, it’s reasonable to consider allowing typical pets. It’s also a good idea to ask renters to purchase renters insurance to cover their own liability, keep dogs on leashes when they are outside, and so on.

In addition, it’s only sensible to consider adding an additional pet fee or deposit to the rent for cats or dogs. Also, it might be important to consider a provision in the lease that ensures that maintenance people can have access to the apartment to make repairs and not have to worry about a protective pet who wants to guard his property. Because of this, some properties limit the weight of dogs; but other properties only restrict certain breeds. Also, consider some reasonable limit for the number of pets allowed in each unit. Few properties allow more than one or two dogs or cats.

Finally, property owners might survey current renters to find out if they have strong objections to having pets as neighbors. If a renter does have an allergy or strong objection, it’s probably wise to consider that individual’s needs on a case-by-case basis.

Are Pet-Friendly Rentals Also Management-Friendly Rentals?

By completely barring pets, a rental property might also be barring an entire group of renters. Property managers might explore their options so that inviting pets into their property works out in their favor and doesn’t bother existing renters.

Probiotics for Property Plumbing – Nature’s Cleaning power

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

MegaMicrobs-Header

DRAMATICALLY REDUCE MAINTENANCE COSTS BY USING MEGAMICROBES!

A common challenge for multi-resident, multi-story buildings is the frequency of plumbing repairs needed to keep waste water flowing freely out through drains, pipes, and outflow stacks. This problem can be especially acute in residential complexes where fats, oil and grease from in-home cooking accumulate all the way from kitchen drain traps to the common ground level drains.

Additional deposits of soap, hair, and other waste residue from bathroom showers, tubs, sinks and toilets add to the ongoing problem. Typically, this issue is dealt with as a maintenance budget line item for both plumber snaking at the unit level and the much more expensive jetting service applied to the inside of the common vertical outflow pipes, known as stacks. The annual cost for these services can easily top $10,000 or more, even in a modest-sized building with less than 100 units.

THERE’S A BETTER WAY!

The critical role of construction in property management

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Ruben Walker | CAM Construction

Construction is more important than you think

If you own a commercial building or complex, you are either managing it yourself or have a property manager. So you know there are many responsibilities and tasks associated with managing your property. But you may have never thought about the role of construction in property management. This post takes a look and gets you up to speed on what you need to know about this important aspect of the job.

What’s so Great About a Real-Estate Fund?

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Kathy Fettke | RealWealthNetwork.com

You had a tough time getting to sleep. Then, the phone rings. You think it’s the doorbell as you stumble out of bed, in your dreams, and suddenly realize your cell phone is doing it’s ringtone vibrating dance on the nightstand.

“Hello? … The heater. … Right now? … Your kids are crying? … Let me call you back in five.”

Okay, that’s one possible scenario in the life of a landlord, if you manage your own properties. Or, you could have a property manager. In that case, the phone call would come the next day telling you of a difficult night with tenants, and requesting permission to spend a certain amount of money to remedy the situation.

How to Find and Keep Great Tenants

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

by Kathy Fettke | RealWealthNetwork.com

HappyTenants

Finding a great tenant begins with having great information — and lots of it. Information is a landlord’s crystal ball. And the best time to get this information is “before” the tenant signs on the dotted line.

One of Real Wealth Network’s preferred property managers calls it the “honeymoon period” because tenants will tell you more about themselves when they want something from you — such as the keys to your property. And it’s not just important for the selection process. This information can be critically important a year or two down the road, if your rental situation suddenly goes south.

This property manager, who prefers to remain anonymous, owns hundreds of properties herself. After years of dealing with both good and terrible tenants, she is a wealth of knowledge about what it takes to select the right tenants. Here is some of her advice:

Tenant Screening Priorities

1. Begin with a criminal background check and a civil background check.
Criminal background checks are good for things like arrests, convictions, and warrants, while civil background checks will let you know if applicants pay their bills on time or have any judgements against them. Civil background checks tell you more about whether they will make “good tenants” and not just “law abiding citizens”. Lexus-Nexus allows you access to a more comprehensive database of information.

2. Credit checks are important for different reasons.
Credit checks are useful, but less important than background checks because they generally won’t tell you much about the tenant’s rental history. It is useful for understanding the applicant’s credit “load” and whether bill collectors are chasing them. Even if you don’t plan to do a credit check, always have prospective tenants sign a release form for obtaining one in case you need it in the future.

Bad credit does not always mean a potential tenant won’t pay their rent. For example, someone who lost their home to foreclosure during the housing crisis may have bad credit today but if the rent is less than their mortgage was, they could become very good tenants.

3. Current landlord information is helpful but you may learn much more from previous landlords.
Current landlords may not tell you if someone has been an excellent tenant because they don’t want to lose them — or they may not tell you if they are horrible tenants because they want to get rid of them. So talking to previous landlords may get you more honest information. Ask for information on two previous landlords.

4. Make sure they are who they say they are.
Request a photo ID and several pay stubs to verify source of income. Ask about next of kin and emergency contacts.

5. Be sure understand Fair Housing rules so you don’t discriminate.
Protected classes include: race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status and disability. In Ohio, military personnel are also protected. So know your state rules. Attorneys and paralegals are “not” a protected class. Renting to them could put you at a disadvantage in the event of a future court battle because the landlord would have huge legal fees while the tenants would not need legal advice, or would have access to “free” legal advice. Talk to an attorney on your side to protect yourself in advance with a bullet-proof lease agreement.

The Importance of Good Marketing

It’s also important to be able to attract a large pool of candidates so you can find the right tenant and not feel desperate to just take anyone. To do that, you need quality advertising. Another property management company, Renters Warehouse, offered advice on that:

Place your ad on a website that will display contact information accurately and consistently. Renters Warehouse uses proprietary software to spread the word on hundreds of websites.

Your ad needs to be impressive in order to attract the right tenant. Use high quality or professional photos of both the inside and the outside of the rental property. The photos should be taken with good lighting, and the unit should be spotless. A video walkthrough is also a great idea along with plenty of details.

Renters Warehouse says that most prospective tenants want to know everything about an apartment before they decide to call for a viewing. If you have a pet policy, say so in the ad. If you don’t allow smoking or you need a 2-year lease, spell it out in the ad. You could also include interesting details about the rental or the neighborhood and information about an HOA.

You should also have an eye-catching headline that will showcase a few desirable or unique qualities about your rental. Use well-chosen adjectives that represent your property truthfully. If it’s a recently-renovated older home in a happening neighborhood, the title could read: “Amazing, Upgraded Home Near Shopping & Entertainment.” Or if you expect to attract a younger crowd, cater to them with “happening” words or phrases. Just be sure your description is accurate.

One final point — If you are worried about current tenants making a unit look presentable during the tenant screening process, make sure you require their cooperation with a clause in the lease. For Renters Warehouse, that clause requires cooperation within the final 60 days of the agreement. It also says that most tenants are willing to work with you on those showings, so don’t be afraid to ask. It’s important that prospective tenants get a good impression.

Renting to People Who Plan to Have Roommates

Real Wealth Network has a hot tip for landlords renting to tenants who who plan to have roommates at some point. By requiring the lessee (the person signing the main lease) to inform the landlord of any potential sublessees (people who sublet from the lessee) the landlord can know who’s living in their home at all times.

The landlord then also has a “point person” to talk to about issues.

A clause about rules in regards to renting the property on VRBO or Airbnb would also be useful so you can control if your property might have complete strangers living there for the weekend.

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The Real Wealth Network is a real estate investment club that educates members on how to diversify their real estate portfolio nationwide by sharing information on the best US markets for cash flow and future appreciation. The company also offers referrals to experienced and highly-rated brokers, property managers, and real estate professionals in those markets. You can join for free at www.realwealthnetwork.com.

Is Your Toolbox Equipped For You To Be A Successful Leasing Professional? 

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Elaine Simpson, President of Occupancy Solutions, LLC

property manager success

Set yourself up for leasing success  by making a resolution to consistently use these basic leasing tools.  If you put all of them in your leasing toolbox and use them regularly and properly, they will lead you to success!

The Tour Path

As they say, “put your best foot forward”.  After making sure the office entrance and office look inviting, are clean and in order for the day, take the time to preview the path on which you  will take your prospects while touring and demonstrating why your community is perfect for them.  Be sure to pick up any trash or cigarette butts along your route.  While walking your tour path, be sure to take notes of maintenance or other issues that must be addressed to make your tour route look its best so you can impress your prospect.

Models and Vacant Market Ready Apartments

Preview the apartments that you will be showing. Create  a “sparkle kit” of basic cleaning supplies to carry with you so you can clean a mirror, dust a shelf, pick up a dead bug, change a light bulb, etc.  Include furniture markers to touch up scratches and scuffs on the model furniture.  All the interior lights in the apartment should be on.  Set the thermostat to the proper temperature for the day.  Turn on the radio and open the blinds.

Leasing Binder

We love to use Leasing Binders to hold and organize our paperwork.  Leasing binders are generally 3-ring notebooks with tab dividers and pockets to hold: availability list; product knowledge; marketing materials including brochures, floor plans, photos and current flyers; market surveys so that you can educate your prospects regarding the competition (remember not to gossip but speak factually about what they offer or don’t offer); guest cards; applications; business cards; calculator; tape measure.  Also use page protectors to keep the documents and pages looking clean and crisp.

Product Knowledge Notebook

Make this section of your binder a place to keep all of the information that you can find about the physical asset:  year built, number of acres,  type of zoning, number of units, unit mix, type of construction, type of insulation, floor plans, room dimensions, window sizes, carpet and flooring colors, lists of upgrades, etc.

List of Competitive Advantages

Make a list of the things that set you apart from your competition to help you sell against them.  This list can help you when overcoming objections.

Telephone Call Log

Everyone in the office should be logging their telephone calls.  It will capture how many calls were answered by a person during business hours.  The data will also illustrate which days and times of day are the busiest.  Many people just hang up and won’t leave a message when they hear a voice message so try to answer every call in person.

Terrific Telephone Techniques

The goal is to give and receive as much information as possible in an organized way in very little time in a polite and professional manner that leads to an appointment to visit the community or a lease over the phone.  You can create your own leasing script.  We don’t want you to sound like a robot, but if you follow along with a script you won’t forget to ask important questions and to give each caller a brief description of the apartment interior and community amenities, invite them to tour and set up an appointment.  You should ask for each caller’s name at the beginning of the call and use it during your conversation to personalize the call.  Find out how each caller heard about your community so you can track what advertising sources are working and which ones are not working for you.  Your list of questions should also include: Desired floorplan? How soon needed? Number of occupants? Pets? Length of lease? Why moving? Your description should include: feature/benefits of apartment interiors; community amenities; utility information; deposits and fees; invitation to visit; location and office hours; directions if needed; instructions on how to apply, etc.

Ear Appealing Descriptions and Words to Avoid

Each leasing consultant should take the time to write out a description of each floor plan within the community and then practice verbally  using those descriptions for their presentations whether over the phone, on line or in person.  Think of your own “ear appealing” words to use in your descriptions.  Examples:  exceptional, unique, charming, cleverly designed,  stylish, etc.  Avoid using industry words.  Replace complex, property, site and unit with community and apartment or home.

Proper In-Person Greeting

Stand up to greet each prospect.  Look them in the eye, extend your arm to offer a firm handshake, verbally introduce yourself and welcome them to your community.

Guest Cards

Whether you use printed or computer guest cards, best practice is to fill out the guest cards for your prospects instead of asking them to do it.  You can ask questions and make notes while making conversation.  Record their “hot” buttons and note what is really important to them in finding their next home.  These notes will help you later during your presentation, tour and closing.

Product Demonstration

We suggest you show your selected vacant apartment(s) before showing your model(s).  This helps prospects envision their own furniture being placed in their new home. Use the information from your guest card and point out the features and benefits you already know will interest them.  Take this time to build rapport and start closing the sale.

Closing Techniques

There are several ways to approach closing the sale.  You can set the stage for closing when you first speak to a prospect on the phone or at the beginning of an office visit before you ever leave the office by asking two key questions:  1.  What other options are you considering?  2.  If you see something you like, are you prepared to lease today?  This will start the dialog you need to work your magic.

Fantastic Follow Up

It is a little old fashioned, but we suggest the use of a “tickler box” in your leasing office to keep track of ALL leads from ALL employees so constant, progressive follow up can be done with each prospect until they tell you that they have leased somewhere else or to stop contacting them.

Elaine Simpson, owner of Occupancy Solutions, offers awesome in-person training sessions on this property management topic and many others in addition to e-learning courses and webinars.  She can be reached at (800)  865-0948  or www.occupancysolutions.com.

Should you be Required to Accept All Emotional Support Animals?

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Becky Bower

emotional support animals

The term “emotional support animal” has always produced mixed opinions, with some property managers claiming that it’s a loophole term to get applicants’ pets accepted, while others cite federal law concerning tenants with disabilities. Whether your pet policy attracts applicants out of the 79 million households that own cats and dogs or prohibits residents from having their own big red dog, California property managers might be required to allow tenants to have emotional support animals, regardless of their pet policy.

What are the Differences between Service Dogs, Psychiatric Service Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals?

Service animals are animals that are trained to help a specific individual with a disability. Some states, like California, limit service animals to dogs (and in some cases, miniature horses as well). Psychiatric service dogs are individually trained to help a person with a mental disability. Both of these service animals are trained to aid someone with a disability, whether it be pulling a wheelchair or responding to the owner’s panic attack. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, can be any type of animal and are not trained to perform a specific act that relates to an individual’s disability. These types of animals give their owners emotional relief, rather than physical relief, and unlike most service dogs, they do not need to wear any form of identification (like a vest or harness).

emotional-support-animal-quote

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires housing providers to provide reasonable accommodation to tenants with disabilities, allowing them to “request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal.” Federally funded housing (like Section 8 housing) is required to accept emotional support animals without proof.  That being said, legally, you may not request to show proof that the animal has any specialized training. This means, if a resident with a disability requests for reasonable accommodation and provides a letter legitimatizing the need for an emotional support animal, under the FHA, you legally must provide reasonable accommodation for their support animal regardless of your rental policy on pets. If you deny their request for reasonable accommodation, the resident can file a discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Potential Legislation could require the Admittance of All Emotional Support Animals in California

Currently, it is within a property owner’s right to disallow pets on the property, and deny applicants (who are not covered under the ADA) based off of those written rental requirements. However, according to Ron Kingston of East Bay’s Rental Housing Association, that might change. Their online magazine, Rental Housing (issue Dec. 2016, page 22), illuminates that California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is currently proposing “broad new regulations requiring rental property owners to allow tenants to have ‘emotional support animals’ of all breeds and types to live with them in their units.” While (as said above) federal regulations require residents to request reasonable accommodations for support animals, Ron Kingston argues that the DFEH’s proposal is too broad and gives property managers limited authority to “deny a support animal request when the animal poses a threat to health and safety of other tenants, and to the property.”

As the transportation industry has enabled service and emotional support animals to fly on airlines for free and an increase in emotional support animals on airlines has been present, the validity of emotional support animals has come into question. Brian Skewis, California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind executive officer, has previously stated that he has found a “misuse” of the service dog law in airports. While Sacramento International Airport spokesman, Mark Haneke, has said that he is not aware of a false service dog problem, it puts into question whether or not significant misuse could be present in rentals.

Big cities like Los Angeles (which has the highest percentage of renters) have been facing a pet-housing shortage for a long time. Early last year, the City of Los Angeles even stated that they’ll start creating pet-friendly housing legislation to combat the 22.6% of dogs and 18.6% of cats that are surrendered to animal shelters due to pet restrictions. While no legislation has been passed since this statement, with misuse, the DFEH’s proposition could inadvertently cause rentals to become pet-friendly to avoid a discrimination case.

Although the California proposition has yet to be released in full detail (be sure to subscribe for updates), its broad nature would limit Californian property owner’s rights. While it might positively affect the pet-housing shortage in large cities, federal regulations already protect the resident’s right to request reasonable accommodation that allows emotional support animals. If these rights are already protected, the big question is what does this law really do?

Regardless of whether your community is pet-friendly or has a strict no-pet policy, make sure your online application has space to provide additional information (like about service animals or pets) and that you perform thorough screening of all your applicants. Just because an applicant doesn’t come with a furry friend in tow, doesn’t mean they’re a perfect fit for your community.

Becky 201509 Becky Bower is a writer for the ApplyConnect® Blog and the communications executive at ApplyConnect®, a consumer initiated tenant screening company.  She has also spent several years in compliance and auditing.  Becky holds a degree in English with a focus in creative writing from CSU Channel Islands and is a published writer.

BUILDINGS MAINTENANCE & MANAGEMENT EXPO OFFERS BIG DATA, TECHNOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS IN ANAHEIM OCTOBER 25

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

bld_siteheader_date2016_5

Irvine Company, So Cal Edison and So Cal Gas Host Smart Buildings Seminars, Exhibit Hall and Networking

The Buildings Maintenance & Management Expo (BMME) featuring educational seminars by Irvine Company and So Cal Edison, building management industry speakers, exhibitor showcase and networking opportunities will be held Tuesday, October 25 at Anaheim Convention Center. Admission is free.

“Sustainability initiatives, new technologies, policy mandates and funding incentives are shaping the future as public and private sector leaders explore, source and integrate smart building solutions,” said Scott Kitcher, conference co-sponsor and President & CEO of Sustain OC, formerly Clean Tech OC.

Buildings management, sustainability and operations seminars will be held on topics such as microgrids, energy storage, seismic retrofits, security, compliance and smart systems. The Orange County Sheriff Department will hold a special active shooter and crisis management clinic, and presentations by leading utility, energy and industry experts include:

* Rich Bluth, Irvine Company
  * Caroline McAndrews, Southern California Edison
  * Corey Lee Wilson, International Facility Management Association
  * Scott Kitcher, Sustain OC (formerly Clean Tech OC)
  * Mark Walter, Biix Smart Building Software
  * Heather Williams and Shane Millhollon, Orange County Sheriff Department
  * Stephen C. Duringer, Duringer Law Group
  * Andrea Marr, Regatta Solutions Energy Services
  * William Exeter, Exeter 1031 Exchange Services LLC

Facility managers, commercial real estate developers, architects, engineers and government officials are invited to access the latest products, services and clean tech equipment in the exhibit hall. This event is co-hosted by The Register, International Facility Management Association, Apartment Association of Orange County, Sustain OC and Buildings Maintenance & Management Magazine. Hours are 8:30 am to 4:00 p.m. For pre-registration and more information, please visit www.buildingsexpos.com.

Editors Note: For interviews or media credentials contact: David Kuff at davidjeffrey99@gmail.com

 

Landlords and Natural Disasters

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By  | Original post from RentPrep
natural-disaster-prepMost parts of the United States are subject to at least one kind of natural disaster, and some areas may be impacted by several different kinds. These disasters can often be tragic and cause devastating losses in lives and property. As a property owner, it’s always a good idea to educate yourself on what natural disasters could take place in your area. Then, you can create a plan for dealing with them during and after they occur.

What is a Natural Disaster?

A natural disaster is a significant event that occurs because of normal functions and actions of the Earth and its forces. Examples of natural disasters include:

  • Earthquakes
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornados
  • Floods
  • Wildfires
  • Tsunamis
  • Drought
  • Landslides
  • Sinkholes
  • Volcanos
  • Blizzards
  • Extreme weather, hot or cold

Natural disasters, depending on the severity, can affect an area economically and cost millions of dollars of state and federal money to help the region recover. The impact on a property owner can be significant and even in the best case scenario, natural disasters can create plenty of stress, damage and tenant issues for landlords.

Regional Risk Factors

The biggest natural disaster risks can be broken down into regions, where certain types of natural disasters are most likely to occur. There is no single area that is completely safe from natural disasters, but some areas have increased odds while others remain relatively disaster free for long periods of time. Let’s review the biggest natural disaster risks for each major geographic region of the United States.

Northeast United States

This area is subject to incredibly powerful storms in this area are called nor’easters. These macro storms get their name from the direction the wind is coming and bring heavy rain or snow, hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding in some instances. Severe winter storms can cause power outages that last for a few days or a few weeks in extreme cases. These storms can also interrupt road travel and cause property damage.

Southeast United States

In the states that border the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the biggest natural disaster risk has to be hurricanes. From the first of June through the end of November, the area is susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricanes bring strong winds, heavy rain, and high waves that can affect coastal communities. A hurricane’s heavy rain can cause flooding inland so distance from the coast is not always a relief from damage. Tornados are also common in this region and can cause plenty of damage.

Midwest United States

From North Dakota down to Louisiana, the likelihood of tornados here are high during certain parts of the year. Known as Tornado Alley, this region generates many tornados every year. With strong winds, tornados can decimate a small town in just a few minutes, and cause extensive damage and loss of life. The Midwest is also subject to flooding disasters due to heavy spring rains.

Mountain West United States

Due to the dry nature of the region, the Mountain West’s biggest risk comes from wildfires. With huge expanses of dry forests and acres of grassland, a small spark can ignite a wildfire that can threaten homes and lives. Another risk of natural disaster in the Mountain West region comes from earthquakes, as several significant fault lines run throughout the region. While there hasn’t been a large earthquake in the area for decades, scientists have determined that it’s not a matter of if, but when.

West Coast United States

Similar to the Mountain West, the West Coast is most likely to be affected by wildfires, but the increased activity of earthquakes in this region catapult this type of natural disaster to the top of the risk list. Even moderate earthquakes can cause damage to structures, and the region has a history of several large earthquakes that have resulted in extensive damage and loss of life.

Natural Disaster Risk Areas

Thanks to decades of study and tracking, scientists and researchers can calculate the areas of the country with the highest risk of natural disasters as well as those places with the lowest risk of natural disasters. Several reports have been created to give residents an idea of what kinds of natural disasters they are most likely to face, depending on where they live.

Here is one report that ranks the top 10 states most likely to have natural disasters, as well as what residents are most likely to encounter there:

  1. Texas—tornados, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, floods
  2. California—earthquakes, wildfires, flooding, severe weather, tsunami
  3. Oklahoma—tornado, snow, flooding, wildfires
  4. New York—snow, ice, tropical storms
  5. Florida—hurricanes
  6. Louisiana—hurricanes, flooding
  7. Alabama—hurricanes
  8. Kentucky—flooding, tornados, mudslides, severe weather
  9. Arkansas—heavy rain, snow, ice, tornados, flooding
  10. Missouri—ice storms, snow, tornados, flooding

This report reveals both the highest risk cities, as well as the safest cities, in the United States:

High Risk Cities

  • Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas
  • Jonesboro, Arkansas
  • Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Houston, Texas
  • Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas
  • Shreveport, Louisiana
  • Austin, Texas
  • Birmingham, Alabama

Low Risk Cities

  • Corvallis, Oregon
  • Mt. Vernon-Anacortes, Washington
  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Wenatchee, Washington
  • Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Spokane, Washington,
  • Salem, Oregon
  • Seattle, Washington

It’s easy to see that where the Southeast and Midwest intersect, there are more chances for residents to encounter natural disasters. It’s always a good idea for landlords and property owners in general to get familiar with the risks associated with their region, so that proper preparation can begin.

Landlord Plan for Natural Disasters

No matter where you live in the United States, as a homeowner and landlord, you should find out what natural disasters may occur where your properties are located. There should be plenty of state and local resources on how to prepare physically for a natural disaster.

Insurance

As a property owner, consider reviewing your current insurance policies and see what kind of coverage you have signed up for. Some areas require separate insurance for certain disasters that is outside of a standard policy. For example, if your rental property is located on a flood plain, your standard homeowner’s insurance may not cover any damage by a flood and you would need to purchase a separate insurance policy for floods. Follow your insurer’s advice on listing the features of the property and even taking pictures to document everything before disaster strikes. Also, educate your tenant on renter’s insurance.

Records

Keep your information about insurance and so forth in a safe place so you can access it after the natural disaster occurs. If you live in the same area as your rental property, keep hard copies of important documents where you can access them easily. It’s a good idea to create digital copies and store them in the cloud or in an online storage facility like Dropbox or as attachments to an email. Even if you are without a computer or power, you will eventually be able to access the documents. They may be the only versions left if your own home is affected severely.

Tenants and Lease Agreements

It’s also important for landlords to become familiar with the laws concerning the destruction of rental property and how that affects the lease agreement. If the laws are vague or non-existent, landlords can include wording in the lease agreement for clarity in the event of a natural disaster that destroys or otherwise makes a rental property uninhabitable. For example, will rent be temporarily abated while the property is being restored or repaired or will the lease be dissolved?

In other words, make sure the lease agreement has specific wording that covers provisions if the rental property is partially or completely destroyed. Of course, check with a landlord tenant attorney to ensure that your lease is compliant with state laws on the subject.

Structural Preparations

Depending on what types of natural disasters your area is prone to, there may be some things you can do to minimize damage to your rental property. For example, if your rental is in a high hurricane area, consider replacing standard windows with impact resistant glass and installing hurricane shutters. In an earthquake area, take the time to anchor large appliances, like refrigerators, with hooks and straps. For rental properties in wildfire zones, choose landscaping that places shrubs and trees several feet away from a structure. Taking the time now to prep a rental property can mean the difference in thousands of dollars worth of damage and may even lead to keeping tenants safer.

Other Factors

Other factors to consider when it comes to rental properties and natural disasters:

  • Whether a lease is terminated because of a disaster.
  • What happens to the tenant if the rental property is uninhabitable.
  • If the tenant’s job and income is affected by the disaster and how that can impact the ability to pay rent.
  • How the tenant might pay rent on time if normal methods are not stable (mail delivery, electronic banking, etc.).
  • How tenants become informed about the steps for them to recover from the loss of personal belongings or injury claims due to the disaster through FEMA or other avenues, as well as from their renter’s insurance policy.

In order to minimize the amount of stress and to ease the financial burdens for landlords in the event of a natural disaster, the best advice is to be prepared. While there is no way to predict where and when a natural disaster will take place, you can control your level of preparation and ensure the best possible scenario for your property and your tenants.

Landlord Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Natural Disasters and Severe Weather

Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA

USA.gov: Disasters and Emergencies

Red Cross: Prepare for an Emergency

You can also go online and search for your state’s division of emergency management or emergency department for resources and guidance specific to your state.

What steps have you taken to protect your property from a natural disaster and minimize the stress of a devastating aftermath? Please share this article and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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