Preparing for an emergency in the Southern California area as a rental property owner starts with understanding what an emergency is and what it is not. Whether there’s a flood in your investment home or an earthquake or a global pandemic, you need to be prepared as a landlord. We have some tips to help you adapt to managing and resolving emergencies as an investor.

Identifying and Resolving Maintenance Emergencies

Maintenance emergencies can be defined as anything that compromises the structural integrity of your house. That’s an emergency, and you’re going to want to take care of it as soon as possible to minimize the risk of loss and liability. The safety of your residents is of course your primary concern. Beyond that, you want to make sure you’re not making the crisis worse. You don’t want to let the initial problem lead to bigger problems.

Water is an excellent example. Whether there’s a sudden flood due to natural disasters or you have a pipe leaking in the property, water can be traumatic for your investment. Not only does it damage your home structurally and cause destruction to appliances, furniture, floors, and personal property; it can also create the conditions that invite mold and rot. You need to handle every maintenance issue that involves water as an emergency.

Make sure you can identify the necessary shut-off valves in your property. You’ll need to know where to find the irrigation line. It may be in the street or in the yard or on the side of the property. There are several locations and you need to know where they are. You also want to know where the gas lines are and how to shut those off in the event of a gas leak.

Not only is it important that you understand where these things are located – you want to make sure your residents know, too. They should be comfortable finding these shut-off valves as well as circuit breakers. They should also know how to operate them. If your home is flooding, you don’t want them to wait around for a plumber to arrive. You want them to feel empowered to turn off the water and contain the damage

Gather and Provide Important Contact Information

You need to know who to call in case of an emergency, and your residents need to have the same list of contact numbers.

The current coronavirus pandemic, for example, should demonstrate the need to know where your local hospital is, how to reach medical first responders, and where to find your local CDC office. Health pandemics and earthquakes will require different emergency responses than a leak in your home or a fire in your kitchen. Make sure both you and your residents have guidelines in place and are committed to following them.

When you’re pulling together your list of contact information and important documents, make sure all of it is scanned and saved and accessible. You might have a physical file of emergency contacts and insurance policies, but if you cannot get back into your property because of an emergency, you’ll need to have those things in a digital format as well. This is another tip that applies to your residents as well; make sure they understand what they might need and have all the right contact numbers in their phones or electronic files.

Emergency Preparation is a Continual Process

Remember that when you own investment property, you have a business. As a rental property owner, you have a responsibility to that business.

You also have residents who are likely to be emotional during an emergency. They have their personal belongings and probably their entire lives inside your property. If there’s an emergency, they’re going to feel scared and panicked. This is normal, and you might be feeling fearful and emotional as well.

But, you need to continue thinking rationally and professionally. Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath if you’re overwhelmed. You don’t want to make things worse by overreacting or acting out of an emotional response.

Preparation is a continual process. Review your plans periodically.

Over-communication Is Required During Emergencies

Communicating with your residents is always important, but during a crisis, it’s important that you over-communicate. When you have residents living in a multi-family property, make sure they know where all the exits are. Put something in writing that tells them. All of your residents need to know where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them. Make sure they’re up to date and that you have a continual process for keeping all of your emergency responses in place and relevant.

Be pre-emptive. You don’t want to start communicating about what to do when you’re already in the middle of the emergency. Explaining to your resident how to shut off the water valve while the house is actively flooding will just be more stressful for everyone. You want to be out ahead of it.

It’s important to know where your smoke detectors and carbon detectors are in the house. Your residents will need this information as well. Make sure you’re keeping track of the manufacturer and the dates they were installed as well. California has strict codes that manage and regulate the placement and use of smoke and carbon detectors. If those aren’t up to code and they malfunction during a fire, you’re going to have a lot of liability to deal with. This should be part of your preparation.

Check those detectors. Keep track of everything and document your emergency plan and all the pertinent emergency contact information. Educate and over-communicate with your residents. These things will help you protect your residents and your property during an emergency.

If you have any questions about how to prepare for an emergency at your Southern California investment property, please contact us at Mynd Property Management. We have a lot of information on how to help owners, investors, and residents to keep you educated and prepared before an emergency takes place.

Suggested Reading

Renters in Tampa: Do You Know What to Do If There's an Emergency in Your Home?
How to Deal With an Emergency Situation When You're a SoCal Renter
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