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How to Protect Your Rental Property From Flood Risks

Key Takeaways

  • All inland and coastal regions with a 1% chance or more of experiencing a flood each year are considered high risk.
  • Flood risks are a growing concern: flooding is already common in the U.S. and the frequency and intensity of these events will only increase with evolving weather patterns.
  • Water damage to your rental caused by flooding is commonly covered by flood insurance, but landlords should take preventive measures by converting flood-prone areas into rain gardens or adding permeable landscaping.

Published on Jul 21, 2023 | Updated on Jul 21, 2023

A person using a sealing gun to seal a glass door frame on a house to protect against flood risks.

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Many homes in North America are susceptible to flooding and water damage caused by heavy rainfall, storm surges, and hurricanes. As climate change intensifies, the threat of floods will grow over time. 

Regions worldwide are already proactively making plans to mitigate the risk of flood damage, and one strategy is the implementation of permeable landscape design.

This guide will explore flood risks and how property owners can protect their properties to minimize water damage. 

The cost of flood risks

Places most affected by heavy rains, tropical storms, and hurricanes experience recurrent flooding. While all Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal regions face the most extreme flooding, all coastal and inland states in the U.S. are at risk for flooding and flash floods, with some parts considered as high-risk areas. Brief torrential downpours, continuous rain for days, and even snowpack melts can cause moderate to severe flooding. 

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the cost of flooding disasters in the U.S. was $173.7 billion in December 2022. These types of natural disasters are projected to grow globally.

FEMA flood risk and costs data reported that the average flood claim payout from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 2019 was $52,000. The average annual flood insurance policy in 2019 was $700. This figure doesn’t reflect policies from private companies not supported by NFIP.

In Canada, spending on flood-related water damage accounts for 75% of all weather-related expenditures. Floods will become more likely and more severe globally, but there are steps property owners can take to manage these risks. 

Strategies to avoid flood damage

Here are some steps landlords can take to mitigate flooding on their rental property: 

Conduct regular property assessments to prevent flood damage

When conducting your move-in/move-out inspection, incorporate property assessments of areas susceptible to water damage. Safeguarding your property from flooding can save you out-of-pocket expenses. If your rental will be vacant for a long time, shut off the water main. 

After a downpour, check the exterior of your property for pools of water near the foundation. If the home has gutters and downspouts, make sure they’re directing the water away from the foundation. Pools of water near your foundation can seep into the basement and become the main culprits for leaks and water damage. 

Adding safeguards before a flooding event

If you plan to update your property before placing it on the rental market, consider a landscaping design that will effectively minimize flooding, like flood management landscaping or permeable pavement.

One solution to climate-proofing areas of your property that collect rainwater is to convert these flood-prone spots into rain gardens. A rain garden is a constructive method for collecting rainwater and allowing it to absorb into the plants and soil. With rain gardens, you’re working with the water, not against it. 

For properties with a high chance of flooding, adding a permeable landscape design will be an effective preventative measure to reduce the risk of flooding. Installing flood-resistant doors and windows is ideal if you live in regions that experience tropical storms or hurricanes. Anticipating extreme weather patterns will help rental property owners plan for the worst and be prepared for a major flood event.

Raising your home is also a common way to protect property in a high-risk flood zone. On-site property managers should store valuable assets and documents in water-proof containers raised off the ground. Anchoring air heat pumps, water meters, electrical cords, and utilities where water can’t access them will prevent damage during a flood.

Where does your rain runoff flow to? How well does your property’s soil drain? Extreme water damage can cause structural damage to your home, so weather-proofing your basement and landscaping could save you thousands of dollars and reduce the chance of flooding. Check for leaks and water damage. These are red flags you should prioritize in repairing and preventing future damage. 

Review your insurance coverage

Without flood insurance coverage, the financial burdens of flood damage to your investment property can increase dramatically. Landlords with properties in flood-prone areas should invest in flood insurance. States along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico are vulnerable to hurricanes and are threatened with catastrophic damage during tropical storms and hurricane seasons. 

Speak with an insurance agent to: 

  • Understand what is covered in your flood insurance policy
  • Familiarize yourself with your landlord insurance policy
  • Get quotes for flood insurance 
  • Locate private and flood insurance providers backed by NFIP
  • Learn about federal disaster assistance with FEMA and EPR by contacting your insurance agent or the FEMA helpline: 1-800-621-3362

Plan to prevent flood waters from entering the property

Anyone occupying your rental property acts as a steward of your home. As a landlord, you must inform your tenant of the inherent risks and how to practice safety during a storm or flooding.

Once you’ve analyzed the flood risk, advise your tenant of flooding risks specific to your property and ask that they alert you of any water-related issues. Landlords should provide guidelines for properties in flood zones. 

Risks for units or houses in flood zones include: 

  • Flood waters pooling in the yard
  • Pool water overflowing
  • High water levels from nearby lakes and rivers
  • Leaks and mold
  • Power lines or electrical wires down 

Collaborate with your tenant on a detailed emergency plan to minimize flooding damage and ensure your tenant acts safely. Organize an emergency kit with essential supplies that anyone can access at your rental property and inform your tenant where they can find help for flooding in emergencies. 

If your tenant lives in a high-risk flood zone, check in with them during and after storm surges to see if they’re experiencing power outages or any risks of flooding.

FAQ: How to protect your rental property from flood risks

Ensure your property is weatherized, and any flood-proof areas are eliminated. Elevate air conditioning and utilities.

You can use several strategies to protect your property from flood damage, including working with your natural environment to redirect rainwater or flood water, building walls to prevent erosion and flooding, and elevating utilities and structures in high-risk flood zones. 

Typically, standard homeowner insurance does not cover flood damage in the U.S. Property owners that reside in high-risk areas are urged to get flood insurance, aided by the NFIP. There is federal assistance for state and local governments when emergency and major natural disasters occur. FEMA/EPR disaster assistance provides three categories of assistance:

  • Individual Assistance – aiding households
  • Public Assistance assisting private and non-profit organizations

Hazard Mitigation Assistance provided to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to create a plan for hazard mitigation.

Our final thoughts

Having a healthy tenant-landlord relationship is essential. Communicate with your tenant about what they should do in a high-risk flood area or how to prepare for or handle flooding events at residential properties. Creating a plan will help keep your tenant safe and reduce property damage. Visit SingleKey to learn about more ways you can protect your rental property.   

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