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After Disaster - What Can a Tenant Do?

You’ve got everything all set in your new house or apartment but after disaster, what do you do to protect your home, belongings, and family?

For any tenant, as well as for their landlord, much of the pain of surviving a disaster can be lessened with preparation and clear communication in advance.  You should speak to your landlord about what the plans are in place for natural events that occur in your area such as hurricanes, blizzards, and earthquakes.  Follow directions for evacuation when necessary, or for preparations for storms.  If you’re in an earthquake prone zone, consider speaking with your landlord about installing straps on major appliances and large furniture to keep them from toppling over.

Many tenants believe that their losses will be covered under a landlord’s insurance policy.  Usually, this is not the case.  Tenants are well advised to have their own renters insurance policy, which will cover loss of contents and also loss of use of a rental home.  For example, if you are displaced after a hurricane because the wind ripped off your roof, your landlord may be insured for roof replacement, but not for loss of your furniture and personal property, or for the cost of you finding a new place to live .  With renters insurance, you are usually covered for those.

If there is a disaster such as a fire or a leak, a landlord may enter without giving notice first.  It is the tenant responsibility to grant access, and be cooperative and accommodating. 

Even if your home is completely destroyed in a natural disaster, your lease is still in effect until it is terminated in writing.  Your landlord may agree to not charge you rent, but the lease is still in effect until it is terminated in writing. If a building is no longer in livable condition, you must have notice from your landlord terminating your lease due to a non livable condition of the building.

Renters insurance usually does not include earthquakes, but it includes many problems that could happen, such as theft, vandalism, hail, personal liability, damage caused by auto, and civil commotion.

Your first priority in any disaster is your own safety. Follow instructions of authorities for evacuation or remaining safe as you shelter in place. Property can  replaced, but your life and health are another matter.

By Daisy Hammond

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