Highway sign that reads "hurricane season"

While a strong hurricane may demolish anything in its path, hurricane-proof homes stand better odds of surviving such a storm with little or no damage. Hurricanes come out of nowhere sometimes, and it is important to be prepared.

For instance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, to exceed normal activity. NOAA predicts a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season.

It’s critical for property owners and managers of rental properties to make sure their homes and tenants are safe and fully prepared for hurricane season.

  1. Create a Hurricane-Proofing Plan

Long before a forming hurricane is even a mere breeze, as a property manager, you will want to have a plan in place to prep your properties to be hurricane-proof homes.

The plan should include protecting windows (storm shutters or plywood cut to size for covering windows); trimming trees and landscaping that could damage the house during the storm; sealing holes, leaks, and gaps; and cleaning gutters so water can flow adequately.

Secure any loose objects on the grounds, including outdoor furniture and potted plants. Encourage tenants to park vehicles in a garage or at least out of the path of tree limbs that could fall.

  1. Tenant Supplies and Prep

Being stuck at home for a few days — possibly without electricity, gas, or water — requires smart preparation.

Advise your tenants to make a plan and stock up on key supplies. Items may include flashlights and fresh batteries, candles and matches, a first-aid kit, non-perishable foods, drinking water for a few days, a battery-powered radio, and cash.

Remind tenants to have important documents and identification secured and up-to-date.

  1. Photograph the Property

Be sure to photograph the home and the property — inside and out, comprehensively — before the storm begins. You may need this documentation later for insurance proof purposes.

  1. Inventory the Home

For renter’s insurance peace of mind, recommend to tenants that they take an inventory of everything they consider valuable inside the home. If the home sustains damage, they will also have a pre-hurricane record of what was there.

  1. Make Sure Your Insurance Covers Damage

Before hurricane season, check your insurance agent to make sure properties are protected. If you’re managing properties in a coastal area, chances are, you secured the proper coverage already.

Most homeowner’s policies do cover hurricane damages but don’t always cover flooding, which typically requires a separate flood policy. And in coastal areas, a standard homeowner’s policy may not automatically cover hurricane damage, so pay close attention and ask questions to make sure you’re covered.

  1. Touch Base with Tenants

In addition to helping them with a suggested supplies list, be sure to give your tenants information they may need, including emergency numbers (police, fire department, and hospital), information about nearby hurricane shelters, your contact numbers, and information about evacuation routes.

Check with them during the storm to see if they are okay at home or while they are evacuated.

  1. After the Storm Subsides

With any luck, your hurricane-proof homes will have come out relatively unscathed. If not, it’s time to take stock of the damage.

As the property manager, photograph all damage. If the house is repairable and inhabitable, set about having it repaired as soon as you can. Let your tenants know that repairs may take a while, due to the high demand for contractors in the wake of the storm.

Likely, you will need to pay for the repairs upfront and seek reimbursement via an insurance claim.

Depending on applicable state law, your tenants may have the right to terminate the lease and move out, if the home is uninhabitable. The law in your area should also dictate how much rent you will be entitled to, and how much will be reduced by the damage.

By taking these measures before extreme weather begins and after a hurricane subsides, you and your tenants will be in as best a position as possible during and after the storm.

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