Property Owners & Managers Help
This article is designed to help our property owners who have vacation rentals in areas affected by the recent hurricanes in the south east of United States.
This article appeared on Christine Karpinski’s website (http://HowtoRentbyOwner.com/) after Hurricane Ivan hit the Florida, Alabama and Louisiana Gulf Coast. It caused major damage and destruction. There are many people who live there permanently who have lost their homes and their lives. Christine reminds us to keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Here are some considerations for assessment of damages and recovery. Even if you do not own in an area that was effected buy the Hurricanes, there could be some relevant information in here for you too. (Special thanks to Realtor, Jim McDaniel for content contributions for this article.)
If you have hurricane/wind insurance, you should have a policy somewhere in your files. Pull it out and read it. Find out what is covered, what is not and what your deductible is. (This is a good time for ALL vacation property owners to revisit your insurance policies to be sure they are up to date.) Contact your insurance company and find out the process for claims. If you don't have hurricane/wind insurance, contact your regular insurance company. You can still file a claim, but there are no guarantees anything will be covered. Contact your insurance company's claims department first, get a claim or case number. If your agent is in your vacation area, most likely they are inaccessible. You may have to call your company's national claims number.
If you have renters scheduled to arrive, I would call them and let them know that you are still waiting on word. I think it's best to contact anyone who will be renting at least the next 2 weeks and possibly longer depending on the extent of damage. If you had a situation where you had to evacuate weekly renters, you should refund the unused portion of their rent. As for monthly or season renters, this should be dealt with on a case by case basis.
Be sure that all smoke detectors, sprinkler systems and other required safety inspection are done, working and clear for occupancy prior to allowing renters back into your property.
If you had no damage, you may want to have your housekeeper perform a deep clean. Sand comes in through thresholds and makes it appear as though your property is dusty and dirty.
At some point you will need to go there and assess the damages yourself, or have a friend, neighbor, housekeeper or someone assess your place. Before you do anything about going down there, be sure that you can even get in. A lot of areas they are not allowing anyone to enter. This is for your own safety. There are a lot of power lines down, roads literally washed out and a lot of structural damage. Check your county's web site to see if they have updates.
What to take
Take your camera with you. If you have any damages, be sure to take photos of everything before you fix anything. Insurance adjusters are going to be very busy and of course they will prioritize their claims. If you have water damage, and you cannot wait for the adjusters, use your best judgment on repairing things that need immediate attention. Mold and mildew can do long-term damage. But remember, take lots of photos. If you plan on going down, bring proof of ownership, such as insurance policy, deed, etc or you will not be allowed in. That is good as they want to keep out the looters and sightseers.
Before you go down, you will want to get as many supplies from home as possible because the Home Depots and such in the affected area may have a hard time keeping up with demand. Some things to get that come immediately to mind are: pack a cooler with food and drinks. Candles, flashlights and possibly generators. Contractor trash bags, fans (for drying carpets, etc.), shovels, rakes, brooms, hammers, nails screwdrivers, cleaning supplies, paper towels.
What to do when you are there
If you have been told that there was no apparent damage, you still should have someone go inside your unit. Water can get inside units through sliding glass doors, windows and door thresholds.
Even if your unit was not damaged, all help cleaning up the common grounds for all properties will be appreciated. We cannot expect our association management to do it all. (Also some of the staff people may have damage at their homes.)
If you have windows that need immediate replacement, keep in mind that you cannot buy regular windows, they must be to code, which are the high wind impact windows. In some cases, if you have a blanket policy through your association (mainly for condominiums and townhomes), sliding doors may be covered under the association's master policy.
The wind, sand and salt damaged many door locks and lockboxes. Be sure to check yours to make sure it is working properly. Most hardware stores can clean your locks for $5-$15 dollars.
Vacuum the sand out of the tracks on your sliding glass doors. If you do not do this, it could cause long-term damage to your door rollers as well as make it difficult to open and close.
If you are one of the more fortunate owners who had little or no damage, you may want to pop an e-mail to your renters, or add something to your web site stating that you are fine and did not sustain damages. I have had concerned renters call me as well as displaced renters looking for a new place to rent. Remember, this is their piece of paradise too.
If you are getting ready to rebuild, remember that many states require all contractors to be licensed. Remember, everyone needs help and contract labor will be scarce (if you plan on bringing anyone to do paid work, they must be licensed, so be careful). Also if you have had any outside structural damage, you are required to get a permit to rebuild (this includes decks and beach access walkways).
Prioritize your damages and deal with them accordingly. First priority should always be water damages.
Do not overlook structural issues. 130 MPH winds do a lot of structural damage. Notably, be sure that your railings are still secure.
Lastly, let's put this all into perspective ... as bad as this feels remember this is only your second home or investment property. ... Yes, your property was affected, yes, your rental revenues will be affected. But your life goes on.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management) is FEMA is looking for rental homes for those who lost their homes as a result of Hurricane Ivan. If you can help with this, please contact FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
As well as helping out, it could be a great way to have someone in your unit during the otherwise off season times at (Oct, Nov, Dec).
The Red Cross takes donations for hurricane victims. Feel free to contact them in your area. And remember, the greatest gift you can give is the gift of life, donate blood.
Publix Grocery stores is taking donations and 100% of the donations are being channeled to other organizations who are assisting victims.
Many local churches are also taking donations.
Christine Karpinski, author of, "How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner," can be contacted via her web site http://HowtoRentbyOwner.com