When Hurricane Laura swept through the southwest in late August, Houston was lucky, escaping mostly unscathed. As we know from past experiences, such as the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, that isn’t always the case. The “once in a century” storm killed at least 68 people in the area and caused billions in damages, and we’re likely to see more storms of that scale in the next few years – so landlords need to be prepared.
Whether or not Houston faces another hurricane this season, it’s a good time to evaluate your properties to determine whether they’ll be safe during the next storm and what repairs they may need. Some areas are especially prone to cause trouble in the event of a storm, but you should be ready for anything.
Do A Roof Check
Roof damage is one of the most common problems caused by hurricanes; the high winds may tear off shingles, and they often destroy the watertight seal between the roof and the rest of the home. This can lead to interior leaks and structural damage, particularly if those leaks go undetected for a period of time. It’s important to have an experienced roofer check your buildings for damage and replace loose shingles. Because Houston does experience a lot of hurricanes, it’s worth asking your roofer about alternative materials that might better withstand high winds and protect your property.
Watch Your Windows
Like your roof, windows are also prone to damage during hurricanes, especially if they’re older and poorly waterproofed, and this can happen even if you manage to board them all up before the storm. This vulnerability means you should always be watching the clock on your windows; most have warranties that run between 10 and 25 years, so you can save a lot of money by having them replaced while they’re still covered. Just be sure to read the fine print carefully to determine whether hurricane damage is included.
If you’re interested in doing some preventative work, you might also consider installing storm shutters on your properties’ windows. This may need to be done over a period of several years if you own a lot of properties or your buildings have a larger than average number of windows, but it’s worth it. Shutters not only protect your windows, but they can also save your maintenance team a lot of work in the run-up to a storm.
Lighten Up The Landscaping
We talk a lot about the importance of curb appeal, both in appealing to tenants and selling properties, but when a storm hits, great landscaping isn’t always a good thing. That’s because landscaping elements like trees can cause serious property damage when a storm hits and unlike roof damage caused by wind alone, a fallen tree can make properties uninhabitable for weeks or even months. So, what should you do about those elegant trees dotting your properties?
Though it’s unrealistic to suggest landlords take down all of their trees, it’s wise to make sure they’re all properly trimmed before major storms and to have older, larger trees evaluated for health. A dead tree is much more likely to be rotten inside and to fall, causing damage in a storm.
Provide Car Cover
Covered parking is a relatively rare amenity, especially when it comes to multi-family properties, but because of Houston’s hurricane risk, tenants will find your properties more appealing if you do. Given that you can’t create covered parking overnight, though, evaluate your properties to determine where the safest places for tenants to park are. This may require suspending normal parking rules or clearing an unusual area, but if that will keep trees from falling onto your tenants’ vehicles or otherwise make them less vulnerable to damage, it’s worth making the effort.
Reread Your Policies
As a Houston property owner, you’re no stranger to hurricanes, and so there shouldn’t be any doubt that your insurance covers these storms – but such coverage isn’t actually straightforward. That’s because ordinary property insurance typically doesn’t cover hurricane damage, and many types of hurricane insurance actually only cover flooding. With this in mind, review your policies each year to make sure you have both flood and windstorm insurance, and check how long the waiting period for payments is. Most include a 30-day waiting period, in addition to a deductible, typically a percentage of the property’s value.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Any time you’re facing a serious crisis, you need to make sure your tenants can reach you, and that can be a challenge for the average landlord. After all, you’ll have to prepare your own property, may have family to take care of, and storms can strike with little warning. That’s why it’s ideal to have a property management company with a trusted maintenance team on board – because they can take the lead. In fact, property managers are charged with communicating critical information about local issues like evacuations, leading storm prep, and directing pre-storm maintenance efforts. Meanwhile, the maintenance hotline can handle calls after the storm, providing support during periods of serious stress.
Property managers should also have an onsite stock of emergency supplies, along with preparedness lists for residents. Such supplies should include battery-free flashlights, first aid kits, copies of paperwork, and emergency food supplies. Emergency generators are also a plus. Though tenants should obviously be prepared to fend for themselves overall, many will look to onsite managers for support, especially if you manage a property with a lot of short-term rentals, students, or transplants.
Don’t Be Caught Unprepared
Being a landlord can be stressful at the best of times, but when you’re facing a natural disaster, the role can be overwhelming. Luckily, all of those responsibilities don’t need to fall on your shoulders – in fact, they can be handled more successfully by an experienced property manager, so why not place one on the front lines of your property’s emergency response team?
Hurricane season is a big part of living in Texas, and with over 40 years of property management experience, Green Residential’s team is no stranger to a big blow. Contact our team today to learn more about how we can support your properties, rain or shine. You don’t need to be facing an emergency to call on Green Residential, but we’re who you want in your corner when the storm hits.