Protecting against property management disasters

Geoff Roberts
Geoff Roberts | 4 min. read

Published on July 26, 2010

Do you think your day was stressful? Let’s stop for a moment to consider those extreme situations some property managers find themselves in.

It’s often hard to personalize truly disastrous situations but when you think about it, there were faces behind those properties that were destroyed during natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the raging fires that ripped through Southern California in 2007. While it’s likely you will never find yourself or your property in such extreme situations, there are lessons in both of these cases that can be taken and applied to more run-of-the-mill property management situations.

Hurricane Katrina and Insurance
We are all familiar with the images of the destruction Hurricane Katrina left in her wake—thousands of homes and buildings completely demolished and the families who lived in them homeless, with all of their property destroyed. Good thing insurance exists … right?

Well, according to an October 2007 article in National Real Estate Investor Online, one of the many hurdles which New Orleans faced in its ongoing rebuilding process was the fact that insurance premiums went through the roof, completely out-pricing many property managers when it came to getting back in the game. Not only did insurance premiums go up in New Orleans, says the article, but also “In coastal areas from Texas to Boston, insurers have raised premiums.”

What can possibly be gleaned from this situation outside of how unfortunate the repercussions of Katrina have been? Namely, the fact that insurance is a critical part of owning and managing a property — but one that many investors don’t think of when selecting a property for purchase. No matter how good of a deal you find on a property, if the monthly insurance premiums (which you must have to avoid major problems down the line) are out of control, the property is ultimately not a good investment for you.

When making an investment purchase, in addition to all of the other factors that weigh into your decision, make sure that you’ve done your research and know how much full-coverage insurance will run you. Arming yourself with this information ahead of time will save you (and your bank account) a whole lot of misery in the long run.

Southern California Fires and Safety Measures
When the Southern California wildfires ripped through 500,000 acres of land in 2007, there was not much the 1,500 people who lost their homes could do. While most wildfires are not as extreme as those in 2007, they are a real danger for any area that experiences the flammable combination of winter storms, spring winds, and summer heat.

According to there are two steps any property manager who lives in this sort of environment should take to guard against the threat of wildfire:

  1. Create defensible space – create a buffer between your property and the fire by removing any dead plants, grass, and weeds.
  2. Harden your home – identify any weak spots in the exterior construction of your property that might easily fall prey to flying embers and bolster them with flame-resistant material.

And, of course, even property managers in less hazardous areas should protect their property by practicing basic fire safety: have accessible fire extinguishers on-hand in common areas; install smoke detectors in each unit and in common areas; and test and check the batteries of smoke detectors on an annual basis.

Though extreme situations may be difficult to relate to, there are lessons that can be taken from all of them to enhance property management practices and insure that disasters of the more personal variety don’t happen under your own watch.

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Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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