"I totally understand what you are going thru. We had a major flood a few years ago. Some of mine had water lines at my eye level up inside the home.
First - stay clam. Everyone will be in a tizzy and that leads to mistakes. Sure it boggles our minds and our sense of reality has shifted but now is the time to step back and think clearly. You are no good to anyone if overly excited.
Yes, there ARE lease laws and regulations that still work and YOU will be held to the letter of the law regarding the resident's personal property, lease terms, deposit refunds, safety issues, cleaning issues, etc. Residents and Fair Housing police can still sue you even in a time like this.
Some suggestions that helped us survive:
Stick to the lease. A proper lease ends when the home is not habitable.
Sure the house flooded but the resident needs to remove THEIR personal belongings or you will have to charge them for it. They don't get to simply leave it behind. Nothing like slogging wet mattresses and sofas thru the slippery muddy house and yard then haul to the dump. EVERYTHING will be covered in mud which makes walking very difficult. We did not refund prorated rent. We applied that and their deposit to the labor to remove their personal items.
Mold starts in 48 hours. Clean out EVERYTHING immediately, strip the home of wet drywall and insulation plus about 2 feet higher. We simply removed all the wall drywall but kept the untouched ceilings. It's easier to replace the entire wall than try to patch in a lower section. If it got wet don't even think about salvaging it. Toss it and move on.
We rebuilt the gas valves on water heaters and furnaces. The circuit boards in furnaces turned green over the next months so we wound up replacing furnaces. Bleach does not kill mold. Spic N Span or PineSol does. Powerwash (gas powered) everything touched by flood waters. Flood waters are full of every bad thing you can imagine - bacteria, sewage, farm manure, chemicals, oil...
Hurricane Katrina Blend: Spic N Span plus bleach in a bucket of water. Repeat. We also sprayed liquid pool shock but this requires extreme caution - a rubber suit and full face mask with chemical breathing filters. It is 50? times stronger than plain bleach. We finished with a hospital grade disinfectant spray from a janitorial supply house.
Families were calling us, pleading and crying for housing but we were patient to clean and repair properly. Cleaned wood (studs, floor joists) must dry for 14 days before being covered with new drywall. Buy a moisture meter and live by it. We sprayed the studs with white Zinsser sealer to prove they were cleaned.
Take photos to prove you disinfected properly before reconstruction. You home will ALWAYS be suspect for mold when you sell. 4 years later people forgot about the flood and new people moved in to town. Believe it or not the flood became a non-issue, just a memory for old people to talk about.
Don't let up on your screening just because they are desperate. This is the time to operate with your head, not your heart when it comes to letting folks into your cleaned home. You cannot save everyone. And it's not your job. Your job is to protect your investment and get it repaired to re-rent.
MANY businesses closed due to flooding which put people out of work. Lots of do gooders will criticize you for not letting just any old person into your rental. Sure help serve food to workers, etc but YOUR investments will take extra protection in this wild time. Don't let the free-for-all take over your investment.
Scammers will be everywhere! Tons of people lost THOUSAND$$$ when "contractors" appeared out of nowhere, took half or full payment down, then evaporated. People who were high and dry claimed to have lots everything in the flood. Board up your windows and doors because metal thieves will be EVERYWHERE, especially now that you opened up the walls for them. Leave the top 12" of the window open for air to flow thru and help dry the house. Wiring can survive. Powerwash the electric boxes and replace the sockets with new.
We worked with the court to define "flood" in relation to rent, evictions, and landlord responsibility. We settled on defining a wet or full basement or garage as "an inconvenience but livable". The home was not livable if the water entered the living level of the home. It only takes an inch of water to ruin the floors and furniture. FEMA came in and just handed checks for $5,000 to renters. Lots of big TVs sold that week!
You will get thru this. Stay calm and don't let this disaster allow you to let down your landlord guard.
One thing I will add is that if you have a commercial space, define clearly what are considered "tenant improvements" in your lease. Also, many commercial leases require tenants to have liability insurance, but if you are passing on maintenance of the space and all tenant improvements (carpets, walls, etc), a nice touch would be to remind them that they still need insurance coverage for their 'stuff'
Our mall lost quite a few little shops that didn't have proper coverage and couldn't afford to rebuild.
Thankfully, I don't have properties that are flooded this year. I've helped in several flood cleanup areas in the past, and I found this to be accurate and helpful information in my experience.
Thanks for reposting this.