Property Management Disaster Planning: Preparing for Emergencies in Merced - Article Banner

Merced landlords and investors need to be prepared for any potential emergency at their rental property. These emergencies can be maintenance emergencies, in which the roof caves in or a major plumbing disaster causes a flood; or, it can be a natural disaster, in which the emergency is a weather event, some kind of criminal event or terrorist attack, or an unexpected scenario that no one saw coming: like a pandemic. 

Preparing properly for an emergency can make a big difference in the damage that’s prevented. As Merced property managers, we’re always trying to make sure the owners and tenants we work with are better equipped to handle unexpected pitfalls. So, we’re helping you understand the types of things you need to think about and prepare for when you own investment properties in the Merced area.

As property managers, it is our responsibility to ensure that tenants are safe in your rental property. We also work hard to protect your investment. We can’t do that if we’re not prepared for unexpected emergencies and potential disasters. 

Unfortunately, emergencies and disasters, by their very nature, strike without warning. Sometimes, it’s serious enough to put lives in danger. More often, the emergency or the unexpected disaster will lead to expensive property damage and a disruption to the rental process. 

Whether natural or accidental, we want to make sure that if an emergency does occur, we have a plan to work our way through it that prioritizes tenant safety and property protection. You need a plan, too.

Identifying and Resolving Maintenance Emergencies in Merced Rental Properties

Before we think about wildfires, excessive heat, or major rain events, let’s focus on maintenance emergencies. These types of disasters can be defined as anything that compromises the structural integrity of your investment. That’s an emergency, and you’re going to want to take care of it as soon as possible to minimize the risk of loss and liability. 

The safety of your residents is, of course, your primary concern. Beyond that, you want to make sure you’re not making the crisis worse. You don’t want to let the initial problem lead to bigger problems. The way you prepare and respond will determine whether you mitigate additional damage or invite it in.

Plumbing and water can serve as an excellent example. Whether there’s a sudden flood due to torrential and unexpected rains or you have a pipe leaking inside the walls of the property, water can be traumatic for your investment. Not only does it damage your home structurally and cause destruction to appliances, furniture, floors, and personal property; it can also create the conditions that invite mold and rot. You need to handle every maintenance issue that involves water as an emergency. 

You’ll need to know where to find the necessary shut-off valves in your property. You’ll need to know where to find the irrigation line. It may be in the street or in the yard or on the side of the property. There are several locations and you need to know where they are. You also want to know where the gas lines are and how to shut those off in the event of a gas leak. 

Make sure your tenants have this information, too. They should be comfortable finding these shut-off valves as well as circuit breakers. They should also know how to operate them. If your home is flooding, you don’t want them to wait around for a plumber to arrive. You want them to know how to turn off the water and prevent further damage.

Preparing for Potential Emergencies 

You need a plan for potential emergencies, whether they’re weather-related or a maintenance issue. You can have procedures in place for what to do if there’s a flood or a fire. 

Disaster planning might include some of these things:

  • Know Your Merced Investment Property – and Its Weaknesses

What disasters and emergencies are you most vulnerable to? 

In Merced, it probably won’t be a hurricane. There are rarely tornadoes. Earthquakes are a concern, however. Fires, too. 

Prepare for any unpleasant possibilities by identifying any potential liabilities. 

Know your ongoing risks and where your property is most vulnerable. Is your property meeting all of the latest earthquake building codes? There’s the risk that comes with location, and there’s also the risk that comes with your specific property. Get to know those as well. 

As property managers, we have found that emergency preparedness is one of the last things people think about when they’re renting out a home, but it’s actually one of the first things you should be thinking about, especially as an investor who owns valuable assets. 

  • Review Your Insurance Policy – Before You Need It

Review your insurance policies regularly to ensure you’re properly covered in the event of an emergency. Many property owners assume their insurance policies will take care of everything, but the reality is that policies vary widely and may not cover all types of damage or liability scenarios. Engaging with your insurance provider before an emergency occurs can help you identify any holes in your coverage and give you peace of mind that you’re fully protected. Ultimately, investing time and effort in reviewing your insurance policies now can save you significant hassle and expenses down the line should an emergency occur in your rental property.

  • Update Contact Information and Local Resources

Keep your tenants safe during an emergency by keeping them informed. They’ll need to have access to resources and helplines. 

One of the first things you can do to prepare yourself and your tenants for potential crises is to identify your local and state authorities. You need to know who to call in case of an emergency, and your residents need to have the same list of contact numbers. 

Cover all your bases. Health pandemics and earthquakes will require different emergency responses than a leak in your home or a fire in your kitchen. Make sure both you and your residents have guidelines in place and are committed to following them. 

Make sure you have current contact information for your tenants. Make sure they have current contact information for you. When you’re pulling together your list of contact information and important documents, make sure all of it is scanned and saved and accessible. You might have a physical file of emergency contacts and insurance policies, but if you cannot get back into your property because of an emergency, you’ll need to have those things in a digital format as well. 

Over-communication Is Required During Emergencies

Communicating with your residents is always important, but during an emergency, it’s important that you over-communicate. If you’re renting out units in a multifamily building, make sure everyone knows where all the exits are and how to access them. All of your residents need to know where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them. Make sure they’re up to date and that you have a continual process for keeping all of your emergency responses in place and relevant. 

Be preemptive when it comes to keeping your tenants informed and remaining responsive. You don’t want to start communicating about what to do when you’re already in the middle of the emergency. Explaining to your resident how to shut off the water valve while the house is actively flooding will just be more stressful for everyone. You want to be out ahead of it. Provide written instructions, or videos if that’s easier. This is information they should have when they move into your property.

It’s important to know where your smoke detectors and carbon detectors are in the house. Your residents will need this information as well. Make sure you’re keeping track of the manufacturer and the dates they were installed as well. California has strict codes that manage and regulate the placement and use of smoke and carbon detectors. If those aren’t up to code and they malfunction during a fire, you’re going to have a lot of liability to deal with. This should be part of your preparation.  

Check those detectors. Keep track of everything and document your emergency plan and all the pertinent emergency contact information. Educate and over-communicate with your residents. These things will help you protect your residents and your property during an emergency.

These are some of the general tips we always share with owners and investors who are interested in keeping their properties safe during an emergency. We like to limit the number of emergency maintenance calls we respond to by providing great preventive and routine maintenance. But, sometimes a pipe will burst without us planning for it. Sometimes, there’s an earthquake we could not possibly predict or a wildfire that’s getting dangerously close to the properties we rent. 

Every emergency plan should be customized. Would you like to talk about an emergency plan that’s specific to your Merced investment property? We can help. Contact us at River Drive Properties. 

Property ManagementRiver Drive Properties provides effective and professional property management services in Merced and the surrounding areas including Fresno, Modesto, Tulare, and Turlock. We have extensive experience with both single-family homes and multifamily properties.