Many of you are landlords or tenants in hurricane risk areas such as Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and other Gulf States and along the Atlantic Seaboard. Many times a hurricane completely destroys neighborhoods or just leaves them a little bruised and battered. And, as a landlord or a tenant you have responsibilities and things you should do to make life easier for yourself and your loved ones.
Here are four things that landlords and tenants need to do if they own homes or rent in hurricane areas:
1. What can landlords do ahead of time for tenants? As a landlord, give your tenants information such as evacuation routes, what to do in the event of a natural disaster, advise them about their renters insurance needs, and provide them with a kit for emergencies. The kit should include items such as water, a flash light, shut-off equipment for utilities, and contact information to emergency numbers. You should also leave them with instructions on how to turn off utilities and require that they leave if evacuation is mandatory.
2. What about insurance? Owners need to remember that flooding damage isn't generally covered under homeowners insurance. They need separate flood insurance for coverage. It is vital that tenants are required to have their own renters insurance. Landlord insurance doesn't cover the renter's items. Also, landlord insurance generally only covers a small amount of items inside, such as appliances and generally between $2,000 and $5,000. If you live in a hurricane area and provide furnishings to your renters, you may want to revisit your coverage.
3. What about after returning home after a hurricane? First, check for standing water, which includes internal and external obvious damage. Write down what is damaged whether you're the owner or a tenant. Take pictures. You may need this for insurance. Don't turn utilities on until you know it is safe. Look for broken items and for tell-tale signs such as buckling wood floors or water spots inside the home.
4. Hidden Damage and Covering Your Bases. You may want to hire an inspector to look for "hidden damage" like roofs that will leak come winter due to shingles missing or water under the slab. In some cases, you may not know there is an issue until many months later. What's more, proving that this damage was the result of a flood after the fact to insurance companies is tough. Ask tenants to keep you informed. You can always reconcile this information with the insurance company, too.
For more information about flood or renters insurance visit Military.com's Finance Channel.