What do you do if you own a rental property in Sacramento and you find yourself in the middle of an emergency situation? We’re exploring that with our local expert today, and helping investors understand how to respond to and handle an emergency when they have rental homes and residents to think about in Sacramento.
Communicate Proactively During Emergencies
Communicate proactively, especially with your residents. Don’t assume they know everything. Often when people are operating from a place of fear and reactive behaviors, a little extra communication can go a long way.
Keep your residents in the loop. If the emergency is an electrical issue or a water issue, communicate with your residents in the building through email or mass texts. If you’re only working with one or two residents, make a phone call. Make sure they know what you’re doing to help. If there’s an active emergency and you’re living in a home that doesn’t have power, every minute can feel like an hour. So, get ahead of the curve as soon as possible. Treat your residents right and make them feel like you’re on it and taking care of them.
Establish Sacramento Emergency Protocols
Prior to an emergency happening, make sure you and your resident understand what an emergency actually is. At the property, we may think of emergencies as something that meets the standard of the housing code or our business model. Residents may have other ideas. So, put something consistent in place. For example, if a toilet isn’t working, that may not be an emergency in a property with three bathrooms, but it would be an emergency in a property with only one bathroom.
Make sure your residents are empowered to mitigate the emergency as well. If the house is flooding, have your residents shut off the water valve if it’s safe. When you have water flooding the home, the first step you take isn’t necessary to call the landlord. Stop the flood first, and then make the call.
There’s a pecking order. When your house is on fire, you call the fire department, not the landlord.
Expect After-Effects of Emergencies
Every emergency will take a lot of time and attention in the moment. But, you have to expect that it will kick up some downstream things, too. An illness, for example, will impact the economy as we are seeing right now. Be ready for the questions you’ll receive from your resident. You may need to change some collection protocols. If there’s a lockdown, you’ll need to make sure everyone in your building is safe. If there’s an earthquake and the water and power are shut off, you’ll need to work on relocation. Every emergency will come with its own set of circumstances, and those will lead to additional circumstances.
Be consistent but flexible. There are fair housing and discrimination laws in place. So, if an emergency occurs and you decide to change the way you collect rent for one tenant who has lost a job, you’ll have to be prepared to offer the same consideration to your other tenants.
There’s a lot of nuance. You need to be fair, but you also need to provide relief in each situation. It’s reasonable to hold the line on existing policies. But, if the government halts the enforcement of those policies, you will want to have your own playbook in place that addresses how you treat specific things.
It’s very difficult to find a one-size-fits all approach. It depends on the severity and the rippling effect.
Sacramento Owners and Their Responsibilities to Residents
You have to be well-versed in the law and what your parameters are. Owners need to remember, however, that you are providing a shelter and a home for residents, and there’s a real responsibility that comes with that. Be prepared for difficult situations and tough conversations. You’re working with people during fearful and difficult times. Everyone is in reaction mode, and this presents you with an opportunity to be a good human and a compassionate person.
You’re an investor and you’re running a business, but there are emotions running on the other side of that business. It’s not always numbers when one of your residents loses a job that has supported her family for 30 years. There are human beings behind every door you own. This is a customer service business, and sometimes emotions run high and things are said and done that aren’t logical. You have to remember that.
This is a people business. Your business revolves around the people who are renting your property.
Emotions will be a driving factor, which is why the communication we discussed at the beginning of this conversation is so important. Resources will slow down. Contractors and first responders will be swamped. Communities will need to rebuild.
Make sure your residents know what’s going on. If someone says to you that you won’t have an update for two weeks, at least you have that expectation. If you’re not told anything, however, you’re going to feel the weight piling up more and more every day.
Getting back to someone to say ‘I don’t have any information’ is still an answer. Ignoring them is not an answer.
Don’t assume your residents know what’s going on, and don’t assume they’ve been through anything like this before. They may not have the confidence or peace of mind to navigate these emergency situations. Try to provide pieces of information that would make you feel helped if you were on the other side.
If you’ve gone through a heavy flood before, dealing with a flood the second time is a lot more familiar. You’re more confident in your ability to get through it. But if you’ve never dealt with a flood before, the sight of running water in your house makes you fearful. It’s natural and expected.con
As the property owner, you need to be the cool head. People are feeling emotional. You want to be fair, and there are people’s lives at stake. Remember that.
You can also visit our Facebook group of investors, which is called Master Mynd. It’s a real estate investors’ club, where you can exchange ideas with other owners. Check out our weekly podcast as well, called The Myndful Investor. We invite leaders in real estate and property management to talk about their success and, more importantly, their failures. There’s a lot to learn from this relatable content.