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What type of hurricane and storm damage is the responsibility of landlords and rental owners?

State laws often impose certain limitations to Lease Agreements. In most circumstances, however, landlords and tenants may negotiate most terms. As a result, whether storm damage is the renter’s responsibility often depends on the Lease Agreement. Let’s take a look at when the landlord is generally responsible and when the renter is generally responsible.

The landlord covers property damage

In most residential leases, a landlord maintains the property. This generally includes major building components like the roof or central air conditioning.

The landlord’s responsibility usually extends to common areas of a property, such as lobbies, gathering spaces, or the grounds. They perform more cleaning and maintenance in these areas than in other areas of the rental property.

After a hurricane, a landlord may be responsible for any damage to the property and common areas. Their obligation stops when it comes to personal property belonging to the renter.

The renter covers personal property damage

The renter’s responsibility usually extends to their own rental unit and personal property within the unit. Renters are responsible for routine upkeep, but not for building damage.

For instance, if the plumbing fails, a tenant can submit a Tenant Repair Request to their landlord. On the other hand, if a filter in the bathroom vent needs cleaning, a tenant may be required to take care of that task.

After a hurricane, a renter can generally focus on their personal property and leave larger property repairs to their landlord.

Special lease provisions 

Some areas prone to hurricanes or at high risk for severe weather might include specific language in the lease about what storm damage a tenant covers. There might also be provisions about what steps a tenant must take to safeguard or protect property in the event of severe weather.

For instance, a renter might be required to activate storm windows in advance of a storm or bring in outdoor furniture ahead of severe weather. If they do not, subsequent damage caused by their inaction might be their responsibility.

Property insurance and hurricane damage

It is important to read your property insurance policy to determine what it covers. As a rule, most property insurance policies cover damage from strong winds, which may include hurricanes.

It might not cover other hurricane impacts, such as flooding. Many policies have a separate section and deductible related to hurricane coverage, especially in more susceptible parts of the country.

What hurricane and storm damage is the responsibility of tenants and renters?

In general, only personal property damage will be the renter’s responsibility. There are exceptions, which may be identified in a Lease Agreement.

One item that may get overlooked is the renter’s responsibility to bring personal items into the property in the event of a storm. Umbrellas and lightweight lawn chairs can cause serious damage in destructive winds. Heavier items, like outdoor tables, can be secured to the ground in certain weather conditions.

Failure to take steps to keep the property safe can lead to liability. For instance, if a chair or table breaks a window in high winds and the renter was supposed to bring the item inside, they might have to pay for the broken window. Renter’s insurance, also, may not cover this damage. Still, this situation is relatively rare and typically is listed in a Lease Agreement that explains the renter’s storm preparation responsibilities.

Renters insurance and hurricane damage

Renters insurance only covers the renter’s personal property in their rental unit. It does not cover general property damage. Most renters insurance policies cover personal property damaged by hurricanes and severe weather, such as wind, fire, or hail. Renters insurance generally does not cover flood and water damage, even if caused by a hurricane. You may need supplemental flood insurance to obtain coverage.

When are landlords required to pay for hurricane damage to my personal property?

There are some occasions when a landlord might be responsible for hurricane damage to your personal property. Typically, the landlord is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the rental property as a whole. If poor maintenance results in damage to your personal property, then the landlord might be liable for the damages.

Consider an example. A hurricane damages the roof of a single-family home you rent and you promptly notify the landlord of the damage. Even though the landlord has had ample time to fix it, they do not and the roof leaks during the next rainfall, damaging your personal property. In that situation, the property owner may be responsible for the damage because it was caused by their failure to maintain the property. You may submit a Complaint to the Landlord or a Maintenance Report Form to property management to notify the landlord of the problem.

How can tenants and landlords prepare a property for a hurricane?

Tenants might want to consider taking the following steps to prepare for a hurricane.

  • Obtain renters insurance.
  • Move all personal belongings indoors.
  • Tie down heavy items.
  • Secure windows and doors.
  • Plan evacuation routes, safety zones, and shelters.
  • Prepare an emergency kit.

Landlords may want to prepare the rental home:

  • Obtain property insurance.
  • Clear dead trees and limbs around the property.
  • Secure siding to the building.
  • Close or anchor shutters.
  • Remove or secure outdoor furniture and accessories around the building.
  • Prepare an emergency kit for renters.

Are landlords required to provide temporary shelter if my apartment is damaged in a hurricane?

Generally, tenants may terminate a lease if the property becomes damaged or unusable. You may also negotiate reduced rent until the property is repaired. A landlord is generally not required to provide you with alternative shelter or pay for relocation if your rental property is damaged in a hurricane. If you rent in an apartment building, however, your landlord might choose to provide disaster assistance by relocating you to another, undamaged unit.

If you have more questions about hurricane damage or insurance policies, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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