Even in NYC, natural disasters can destroy homes and leave tenants homeless for long periods of time. Being prepared for the worst is the best way to avoid any landlord disputes during such a hard time.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, natural disasters cause billions of dollars of damage each year in the United States. The net worth of damage costs for 2017 and 2018 alone was almost $400 billion.
There are some steps you can take to limit damage and ensure a quicker recovery in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Landlords, in particular, should take the time to work with their tenants to ensure their property is safeguarded. It's important they provide clarity around the course of action they plan to take.
The best way to protect yourself and your property from any disaster is to get educated and appropriately prepared.
How to Prepare for Any Type of Natural Disaster as a Renter
These are some proactive measures both landlords and tenants should take well before a natural disaster strikes.
- Check If Your Lease Has a Natural Disaster Clause: Landlords should create a personalized lease online that includes clauses that clarify the course of action for tenants before and after natural disasters. By planning for potential issues down the road, the landlord-tenant relationship can become a stronger, lasting partnership.
- Ensure Strict Safety Guidelines Are Followed: Landlords should keep well-maintained properties and have appropriate protection mechanisms in place. These include smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Make sure your landlord has provided your home with adequate safety precautions.
- Renters Insurance: As one of the requirements of the lease, landlords can require renters to purchase and maintain an insurance policy. The tenant's policy may cover their property, personal injury, and relocation support in the case of housing damage.
- Create an Emergency Plan & Kit: Landlords should work with tenants to take specific steps to protect against potential issues including breakage and loss of property, break-ins, and theft, as well as fires and natural disasters. Having your landlord include a simple checklist with the lease agreement can go a long way.
Work as a Team:
Presented below are some examples of disaster preparations landlords and their tenants can work on together.
* For a full list of how to prepare for any natural or manmade disaster, see Ready.gov.
Landlords! Assess Damage to Your Property
Your landlord should assess outside damage and inspect the property carefully before letting you enter the building. They should check for structural damage and hazards, including roof, foundation, and chimney cracks; downed trees; downed or loose power lines; gas leaks; and any other potentially dangerous conditions. If there is any standing water inside and/or pipes are damaged, have your landlord turn off the electricity and main water supply. Assuming the structure is sound and the property is habitable, your landlord should allow you inside so you can evaluate the condition of your apartment and your personal property.
What if the Property is Uninhabitable?
If after inspection the landlord or the authorities deem the property uninhabitable, the tenants will need clear directives on their next steps. You, as the tenant, would be rightfully upset to learn you might not have a place to live, temporary or otherwise. Therefore your landlord should provide you with as much information and support as they can. The faster both you and your landlord act, the faster the recovery can begin.
The following is some key information your landlord should provide to you, the tenant:
- When a home is declared uninhabitable for an indeterminate amount of time, the tenants must move out. Therefore, the landlord must release the tenants from lease or rental agreement. The landlord and the tenant will need to work together on securing personal property and reimbursing any fees.
- In a case where the property is determined to be temporarily uninhabitable, the tenant is usually responsible for securing their own temporary housing. Make sure before signing a lease that the lease agreement addresses how to handle rent payments during this period.
- Per the Uniform Resident Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) and other guidelines, it is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain all electrical, plumbing, heating/air-conditioning, and other items to keep tenants safe and healthy. As such, any of the above items impacted during the disaster must be addressed by the landlord.
There Is No Substitute for Preparation
No one wants to think of the worst-case scenario, but we have all seen the news and know there is no way to stop a tornado or hurricane on its path of destruction. Being prepared for the worst is the best way to move past a disaster faster and move on with your life sooner. If a natural disaster is coming, create an emergency survival kit and have a plan. When landlords, tenants, and local resources come together during an emergency, everyone benefits.