Handling natural disasters as a renter can seem daunting. When the aftermath of a storm is sitting in your front yard, you might get right down to business and start picking up the branches, or chunks of trees that were knocked around in the ferocious wind. Or, your situation may be a little more unique because you are renting a property. So do you take care of the busted window, or does your property manager? What does renters insurance cover?
This article will highlight the most important questions you should be asking your property manager and what they should be doing for you, what renters insurance should cover, and what you can do to start tidying up your property right now.
What Should Your Property Manager Do to Help You?
There is a lot going on after a chaotic storm hits: trees and powerlines blocking major roadways, debris floating about, lawn chairs and trampolines in other people’s yards. There may be severe damage to your home or apartment, or you may have gotten lucky and only have a few snapped trees. Let’s walk through essential questions to ask your property manager and what they should be doing for you.
First and foremost, your property manager should be communicating with you. If the storm was expected, your property manager should reach out to you beforehand to share the protocol to follow. However, not all storms are predictable. Almost immediately after the storm clears up, you should hear from them regarding the status of maintenance and clean up. This is an example of what our team communicates to our clients:
“That storm was crazy, we hope everyone stayed safe during those winds! We understand a lot of trees and limbs are down and the damage was inevitable during that storm. We ask you to put in a maintenance request with a couple of photos of the issue. We are doing our best to help get your home cleaned up. Thank you so much for your patience during this time.“
Roof damage and window damage are of utmost importance to handle first. If access to your property is blocked by a fallen tree or power line, you need to contact your property manager immediately. Destruction to the backyard or fences are not as much of a primary issue, but you should still report these to your property manager as soon as possible.
The roof, windows, the siding, the front porch or the backyard deck, all fall under the responsibility of the property owner. Your property manager is the liaison between you and the property owner, so reporting these damages is critical to getting your home repaired in a timely manner.
4 Questions to Ask Your Property Manager After a Natural Disaster
Following a natural disaster, you may be struggling with what to ask your property manager. Here are a few necessary questions to start:
- Who do I contact to report my power outage?
- Who do I call for debris pickup?
- Who is in charge of covering the damage to my backyard furniture?
- What do I do if my space is unlivable due to the damage?
When in doubt, you should always review your lease with your property management company to find out what they are contractually required to do when your home is damaged.
What Does Renters Insurance Cover After a Natural Disaster?
Most property management companies will not let you sign a lease without renters insurance. If they do let you sign without it, it is highly recommended you purchase renters insurance before moving in. The property owner will have insurance on the home itself, but everything that you own would be covered by renters insurance.
Renters insurance is typically not expensive – the average rate in Iowa is $144 – $200 annually. Policies differ, so be sure to read up on what it may cover for you. It is important to take into consideration the value of your belongings so as to set a coverage limit that works for you. You can always purchase extra coverage if necessary.
Renters insurance will cover certain storm damage, such as: Hail, lightning, windstorms, weight of ice or sleet, and wildfires. They do not usually cover flood damage without an additional policy so be sure to check with your company to see if your policy includes it.
If you do not currently have renters insurance, purchasing a policy after a storm will not retroactively cover damage but will protect you in the future.
If you have renters insurance, most policies will cover:
- Personal property – The cost to replace or repair your belongings, including clothing, electronics, and furniture. This can also include premium belongings, such as jewelry and art, up to a certain amount.
- Personal liability – Repairs if you accidentally damage someone else’s property, or it will cover someone else’s medical bills if you are found responsible for their injuries.
- Additional living expenses – If the place you rent is uninhabitable, this will cover a predetermined percentage of living expenses, including hotel, meals and laundry bills
In the event of a natural disaster, your renters insurance should usually cover the cost to repair or replace your belongings if they are damaged. You should review your renters insurance to learn the extent of your coverage and contact your insurance company with any questions you may have.
What Am I Responsible for Doing?
It is your responsibility to record and report all damages to your property manager. Take photos of everything and be as specific as possible when putting a work order in with your maintenance team. The more detailed you are, the easier it is for your property management team to schedule services.
You may need to move personal belongings out of your home to make the repair process easier. If there is a tree service coming to your property to remove a downed tree in your backyard, try to take care of the surrounding area, i.e. if your deck furniture is tangled in with the fallen tree, try to remove it.
A sense of eagerness may lead you to start cleaning up debris on your property and you are more than welcome to. There is no rule against helping out if you are able, just make sure to leave whatever needs to be done by a professional for your property manager to handle for you!
It is nearly impossible to prevent your home from becoming damaged during a natural disaster, but it is important to attend to the property after the fact. Handling natural disasters as a renter is a unique situation. Having a plan intact and keeping an open line of communication with your property manager is the only way to get your home back to normal. These tips will put you in the right direction to normalcy after a natural disaster.