It's hurricane and flood season and Texas must be on the alert and understand what measures to take in the event of property damage. For the self-storage industry, that means dealing with the aftermath of flooding and how it affects both your facility and your tenants.
Brad Young of 5 Star Storage in Mansfield has dealt with storms and flooding (15 inches in one day) and along with Paul Rawley of A AAA Key Self Storage Consultants, (Denton) shares some advice that may help you. Mike Parham, of the Parham Group (Bulverde) also offers some ideas.
Tips from Brad Young
1. Keep in touch with all tenants.
Work the phones and contact every single person that is reachable to make them aware of the catastrophe. That way they can open up their units and get stuff out before mold and other problems start.
2. Determine what resources your city has for disposal.
Often, they will have large dumpster-style containers for use. Give that information to the tenants as well. In Brad's case, he ran a truck and trailer almost constantly, running loads of items discarded by customers to the dump station set up near city hall.
3. Make a great effort to dry the facility and units out.
It only takes a few days before real damage sets in. Use pumps, wet-vacs, and floor machines available for rent at Home Depot that wash and vacuum at the same time.
4. Give away boxes for free.
This will help ease the pain of upset tenants. That may help keep tenants or get them back later.
5. Contact your insurance agent to show how much damage was actually caused by wind and rain. This type of damage is usually covered by policies, whereas, unless you have purchased special insurance, flood damage is not.
6. Don’t forget to contact your bank.
“Be prepared to re-negotiate with your bank on refinancing,” says Young. “Because of the flood, you may lose a number of tenants and see a significant percentage drop in occupancy. In our case, many tenants just threw their stuff away and left. As a result, we had to 're-margin' our loan on the facility." Most loan agreements require you to give a report of physical damage to your property.
Tips from Paul Rawley
1. Mold problems with new tenants bringing in wet items.
Be very careful about new customers bringing in wet or damp items to be stored. Mold and mildew become a problem very quickly.
2. FEMA assistance to tenants.
Remember that the tenant will need to sign the lease and is ultimately responsible for the rent. Whether your customer receives assistance from FEMA, a charitable organization, or you decide to give some kind of a discount, state a rental amount and explain to the customer that the amount is expected to be paid monthly to avoid foreclosure. It's good to be kind and generous, but don't get burned in the process.
3. Get all information possible, and positive picture ID when renting to new tenants and be watchful for stolen items.
It is still essential to determine the identity of your customers. And as always, managers should be vigilant about what new customers are storing. If you spot a tenant bringing in an unusual amount of electronics or a suspicious amount of sealed or otherwise new items, and the customer is not a business owner or representative, this could indicate stolen items. If possible, contact the police before taking the customer to a rental unit, or you can always refuse to rent to that individual.
4. Boat and RV storage must have all information of owners, etc.
Don’t become lax, not insisting upon ID and all typical rental information. Identifying ownership information is particularly important when you are renting space for storage of RVs, cars and trucks or boats.
5) When your facility is ready to offer units:
Put a banner out near the street- saying “storage units available.” Another idea is, if your power is still out, but you do have units available, see if you can buy some balloons to put out saying "open".
6) Try to stay calm
Many tenants will be distraught and angry. Remain calm and try to help them keep perspective.
Tips from Mike Parham
1) Find an original set of plans,
And get them ready. Your insurance company and/or contractors will want to see that.
Get the place cleaned out by the tenants as soon as possible. I cannot emphasize this enough.
"At our Deer Park facility, between Baytown and Pasadena, the roof blew off. The damage there was mostly wind. It all has to do with where you are in relation to the eye of the hurricane. In our case, most of the building will have to be replaced. We do have generators going, but as insurance companies look at the sites, they know nothing can be done until power is restored."
TSSA Article on Dealing with Floods & Other Catastrophes
TSSA Article on Insurance and Liability
Specific FEMA Information & Resources for Hurricanes
Small Business Administration Loans