We at OTA feel for the people of Houston. As many of you know, we have a Houston Center – the center is ok but many of its employees and students have been affected. If you find it in your heart to help our OTA family, just click on this link to donate.
With the clean- up of Harvey getting started and Irma just touching land at the writing of this article I thought sharing some in-sight on issues related to natural disasters such as preparation, legal issues and landlord responsibilities might be well received.
I highly recommend that you review this flood preparation document written by FEMA. When reviewing the document there were a couple of key things that struck me.
- There are resources to stay informed about impending disasters. Don’t bury your head in the sand – know what is coming.
- Make sure to keep all devices charged in case of power loss and have battery-operated communication and light sources.
- Build a “ready-to-go” kit that holds all your papers, prescriptions, personal needs and priceless items such as photos.
- Be proactive and protect your property if in a known disaster area.
- Communicate your plans with family and friends. For me this was personal, because we have many family members in Houston and not knowing their plan made it difficult to sit in CA waiting for word.
Rights and Responsibilities as a resident and landlord:
First and foremost, focus on insurance if possible. There are estimated to be more than 200,000 homes and apartments impacted by the hurricane and many don’t have insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. There are programs such as FEMA, however, FEMA has its drawbacks as well as a long line to wait for assistance. Also, assistance from FEMA isn’t sufficient to rebuild. The goal of the program (as stated from their website), “is to make a home safe, sanitary and functional. FEMA assistance is not intended to restore your damaged property to its condition before the disaster. Our assistance is meant to help you with essential expenses that cannot be covered in other ways like insurance or a disaster loan from the Small Business Administration.”
Second, what is the responsibility to pay the mortgage on a flooded property? Legally you are bound by a “promissory note” to make your monthly payments. If there is loss to the property then be advised that you are required to provide the lender and insurance company with notice ASAP. CNBC reported that “Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration have announced that they will offer forbearance for at least 90 days to borrowers in the Houston area”.
Third, what is your responsibility as a landlord? As a landlord, it is a challenging situation as you are running a business and that business directly impacts people’s lives. The best advice is to communicate and work with your tenants. Legally, according to Texas Property Code Title 8, a written notice is required to terminate a lease on a “totally unusable” property. This can be done by either the landlord or tenant.
Natural disasters can happen anywhere (I live in Southern CA, prime earthquake country), the key is to be prepared and have adequate insurance. It might be an appropriate time to check with your insurance agent.
Our hearts go out to the victims of these disasters, do what you can to help.
Diana Hill – firstname.lastname@example.org