4 Tips to Deal With Water Damage in Your Rental Property

by | BiggerPockets.com

Water damage can occur without warning, and it can be expensive to repair. How should landlords and others who own rental properties—whether they have someone living in them or not—deal with water damage to their property?

1. Be prepared for a flood.

Water damage doesn’t always come from external sources, but if a property is in a flood zone, there’s a higher risk that it will be damaged by rising flood waters. Property owners should always be aware of their property’s flood risk. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, maintains an online database of all properties in the United States and their associated flood risk.

One way to lower the risk of water damage to a property is to avoid purchasing properties that are in a high flood risk area, but following this strategy isn’t always possible. Being aware of the risk makes it easier to prepare for the inevitable water damage that will occur during a flood.

Related: A Natural Disaster Could Wipe Out Your Investment: What to Consider Before Buying

If the property has tenants, make sure that they’re aware of this risk as well, and provide them with supplies like sandbags and other items necessary to protect the property.

2. Act quickly.

The biggest problem with water damage doesn’t occur until after the water has receded—mold. Wet and humid environments encourage mold growth, and this growth can occur less than 48 hours after the water recedes.

If a property does flood, be prepared to act quickly. As soon as the water level drops, landlords need to visit their properties to assess the damage and work with the tenants, if there are any, to remove wet property. Drywall and insulation will need to be removed and replaced, and the frame of the house will need to be inspected for water damage. Block homes are less susceptible to water damage than wood frame houses, but they can still be damaged by rising waters.

The faster a landlord acts, the less chance there is that mold will have the opportunity to grow. Removing mold once it has started growing is a more involved (and expensive) process.

hurricane-ready

3. Make sure you know your responsibilities as a landlord.

It’s important for a landlord or property owner to know their responsibilities to their tenants in the event of a flood. The landlord is responsible for the property itself, which means they’re responsible for any repairs to the property in the event of water damage. It’s up to the landlord to repair the property as quickly as possible to make it habitable again for the tenant.

If the home is covered by flood insurance, it’s also up to the landlord to report the damage to the insurance company. If the property is in a high flood risk zone, having flood insurance in addition to standard homeowner’s insurance is a must. Most flood damage isn’t covered by homeowner’s insurance, so a separate policy is necessary.

Landlords are not responsible for any damage to the tenant’s property, which should instead be covered by renter’s insurance if the tenant has a policy. It might be a good idea to let the tenants know if the property is prone to flooding so that they can be prepared.

Related: Fires, Floods & Earthquakes: How to Protect Your Real Estate from Mother Nature

4. Stay in touch.

If a flood is likely to occur, it’s important for landlords to stay in touch with their tenants. Not only will doing so allow the landlord to stay abreast of the situation, but it also ensures that they’re able to help at a moment’s notice if something changes or an emergency arises.

Staying in touch with those living in a property also increases the confidence of the tenants in their landlord and ensures a good landlord-tenant relationship.

Floods and other water damage do happen, but landlords and other property owners can take steps to protect their properties in the event of such emergencies. Being prepared is the best defense against flooding and water damage—it won’t prevent all problems, but it will make it easier to respond when any issues do occur.

Hopefully you haven’t had to deal with water damage—but if you have, what tips would you add to this list?

Comment below!

About Author

Anum Yoon

Anum Yoon is the founder and editor of the millennial money blog, Current on Currency.

1 Comment

  1. Christopher Smith

    The dreaded W and M words. I’ve had two water claims one about 5k and one about 25k. First was caused by a rat chewing through some PVC piping, and the other a faulty valve in a dishwasher.

    As noted in the article, it’s imperative to address these casualty events immediately with water remediation efforts that will mitigate damages and most importantly prevent mold growth. Mold has become the great bogey man and many insurance policies won’t cover it in jurisdictions where landlord liability laws are heavily tenant skewed.

    While in my opinion the true risks of mold growth have been vastly vastly overblown, the reality is that it’s seen as nothing but $$$ in the eyes of an attorney contemplating a lawsuit which is why many insurance companies are very reluctant to cover it.

    In my smaller claim, I had an element of the claim reduced because of the presence of pre existing mold. It wasn’t huge, but it put me on alert to make sure that any water spills no matter how minor be taken very seriously because of future liability.

    By my second larger claim, we were ready with industrial fans being put in place which preempted any mold growth and therefore we got 100 coverage for all damages. Still it’s truly amazing how destructive simple water can be, and how it can set you up for huge liability down the road.

    The days of just letting it dry itself out are long gone that’s for sure.

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