Landlord’s Obligations and Tenant’s Rights After A Snowstorm

Landlord’s Obligations and Tenant’s Rights After A Snowstorm

After the last March nor’easter there are tree limbs down, countless power outages, and unfortunately, lots of property damage.  Below are some tips for both landlords and tenants on how to handle some common scenarios.

A tree fell, damaging the house and a tenants car.  First, take photos!!!  Do not remove any trees until you have taken photos of the property damage and called your insurance agent.  Landlords-  Make sure your tenant files a claim with their car insurance company and request a copy of the claim for your records.

Shake it up a bit… a neighbors tree fell onto your property, damaging your house and your tenants car.  First, try and contact the owner of the property.  Sometimes it’s difficult if they don’t live onsite and neither do you, but the Assessor’s office should at least have a mailing address for the property owner (it is public record).  So as a last resort you could contact them via mail.  Next, take photos!  Depending on the damage to the car and house you may need to document everything yourself because an adjustor may not be able to get out quick enough.  For example, if you need to tow the tenants car in order to access the house where the damage was caused, then make sure the tenant has filed their claim first.  In the end, your insurance company will decide who they will pursue to repay them for the claim they pay to you.

If a neighbors tree has fallen onto your property, damage or no damage, you are responsible for cleaning up.  If it caused damage to your house, garage, shed, etc. then you should file a claim with your homeowners insurance company and then they will decide who to pursue for monetary damages, if applicable. In most cases, you may also file a claim with your homeowners insurance for clean-up after a storm… however you should consider the cost of the service versus your deductible and potential premium increase.  And insurance companies will only reimburse you if you have the receipt and proof of payment!

Pro Tip: Tree removal is not something you want done by an uninsured dude with a chainsaw who accepts cash only.  Reputable companies will be busy during an emergency; you won’t have time to check all their references, however asking a simple question: do you have liability insurance? will save you a lot of headache.

Another tip– Pruning healthy trees costs a lot less than you think and estimates are usually free!  I encourage all my property owners to engage in preventative tree maintenance if we have any older or tall trees near the structure or over the driveway.

No electricity = no heat, no hot water, no wi-fi = unhappy tenants.  As a landlord you are not obligated to take any action if there is an interruption in a publicly metered utility.  If it is cold outside it may be a good idea to shut the water main off in order to avoid the pipes freezing. If the electricity is out and all other utilities are out, then there is not much anyone can do.

What to do if the power has been out or is expected to be out for several days?  Check with your renters insurance to see if it will pay for a hotel stay.  If you decide to leave your house you should double check all switches to make sure they are off.

In the event of a SERIOUS emergency, like a tree falling on a house, fire, flood or any other catastrophic incident you should hire an emergency service company that will bill your insurance company directly.  Ask your insurance agent for a list of their preferred vendors.

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Shannon McCullough

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