As wildfires continue to strike California every year, and with seemingly more devastation, it’s important to prepare your Bay Area rental property and your tenants. You want to ensure the safety of your residents, and you want to protect the condition of your investment.
Fires are unpredictable. While there’s not a lot you can do if a deadly wildfire decides to cut a path toward your community, you can plan ahead for how to reduce the risk of a total loss.
Here’s what we recommend, as a professional property management company that has had to deal with fires in the past.
Know Where Your Local Resources Can be Accessed
If a wildfire does cause damage to your property or threatens your tenants, you’ll want to know where to turn for help as soon as it’s safe to do so. There are going to be state, local, and federal resources you can access to minimize the cost for you as you relocate your tenant, file insurance claims, and begin to work through putting the pieces back together. Having these resources at your fingertips before the disaster is a better way to access them.
Compile a list of local nonprofit organizations that are available to help your tenants access new housing as well as any basic supplies that they need. Over the last several years, victims of California wildfires have worked with the Red Cross, FEMA, and other government and private organizations to locate assistance. Local providers also put together shared housing and resource exchange programs.
Preparing Your Property for Potential Fire and Smoke
There are a few things that you can do to reduce the potential damage that a wildfire might do if it approaches your rental property. Here are some of the things wildfire experts recommend:
- Create a Defensible Space
Creating a defensible space around your rental property is an effective way to prevent wildfires from spreading. A defensible space is an area around your rental property that is free of combustible materials. You might be surprised at what can fuel a fire. Remove dead plants, dry leaves, and other debris from the space, and trim trees and plants. The defensible space should extend at least 30 feet from your building or home.
- Install Fire-Resistant Features
Installing fire-resistant features in your rental property can also help minimize the risk of fire damage. Consider replacing wooden decks and fences with non-combustible materials. Additionally, install fire-resistant roofing materials and windows. These features can help prevent the spread of fire.
Put Together an Emergency Plan
An emergency plan is essential to ensuring the safety of your tenants in the event of a wildfire.
Develop an emergency plan that includes evacuation procedures and an emergency contact list. Share the plan with your tenants and ensure that they understand it.
Having an emergency plan available before there’s any risk of a wildfire will assist you and your residents in feeling less helpless when fires do seem to be moving towards your rental property. It’s impossible to be prepared for everything. But, when you can share your plan with your tenants and follow it if necessary, both of you can work together to ensure that the property is protected as much as possible, even when a fire occurs. It also ensures that everyone is kept safe.
Make sure there’s a fire extinguisher on the property as well as smoke alarms and other preventative measures. Pay attention to raging wildfires and heed any and all evacuation orders.
Wildfire season is no time to hide from the news. You need to be informed and you have to be up to date, not only for yourself but also for your residents. Sign up for emergency alerts in your community to be aware of any risks of fire. Additionally, educate your tenants on the risks of wildfires and how to stay aware of any threats.
Make Sure Your Lease Agreement is Up to Date
If your property is damaged in a wildfire, your tenants will be looking to you for help on what to do and where to turn. Your job will be to work with your insurance company and to coordinate with vendors and contractors as well as emergency personnel to protect your property. If there’s an evacuation order, make sure they are attentive to it. Evacuation insurance can cover the cost of relocating your tenants in the event of an evacuation due to a wildfire. If you’re a landlord, it’s important to consider adding this coverage to your insurance policy. This feature will ensure your tenants’ safety and minimize the financial loss for both you and your renters if there’s an evacuation.
Check your lease agreement. There should be an emergency plan included there, as well as instructions for what to do when it looks like they will be evacuated because of a wildfire.
California rental property owners and property managers are bound to the Implied Warranty of Habitability laws, which say a rental unit must be fit to live in. If your rental home is damaged by a fire, it’s not your fault, but it’s your responsibility to keep your tenants out of an unsafe home. You’ll need to work with your tenants to get them placed in some kind of temporary housing. In California, if a tenant has to temporarily relocate for required maintenance and repairs, that tenant does not have to pay rent to you during the time they are not able to live at the property being rented.
Preparing your rental property for wildfire season in California is crucial to ensure the safety of your tenants if the worst happens. By creating a defensible space, installing fire-resistant features, developing an emergency plan, staying informed, communicating with residents, and sharing resources, landlords can minimize the risk of fire damage and promote the safety of their tenants.
Take action before we’re in the thick of wildfire season. And if you need any help, we’re here to provide it. Please contact us at Windsor Pacific Property Management if you have any questions about wildfires, or if you need help with San Ramon property management. We serve San Ramon, Danville, Dublin, Pleasanton, and surrounding areas.