Palm trees blowing in a storm

Hurricane Preparedness for Rental Properties: Tips for Landlords

Laura Olson
Oct 23, 2023

Hurricanes can be incredibly destructive to property, people, and infrastructure due to the high winds and heavy rainfall they bring ashore. If you own and operate a coastal rental property, you’ll likely have to deal with a hurricane and its aftermath at some point in the future (if you haven’t already). While hurricanes can develop quickly, there are steps you can take to prepare your rental property and minimize the potential damage.

In this article, you’ll learn about the different hurricane categories, the types of damage they can cause, and how to protect your rental property from a hurricane. 

Expected Property Damage by Hurricane Category

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale gives hurricanes a rating from 1 to 5 based on their maximum sustained wind speed. The level of expected property damage from a hurricane depends on its category. For example:  

  • Category 1 hurricanes have wind speeds ranging from 74 to 95 mph. These hurricanes usually result in minor damages to property, such as small trees being uprooted from the ground and branches snapping off of trees. Power outages are also common. 
  • Category 2 hurricanes can have wind speeds anywhere from 96 to 110 mph, and will likely cause moderate property damage. Even a well-constructed home could have roof, gutter, and siding issues from a Category 2 hurricane. 
  • Category 3 hurricanes can be a major threat to property, with winds ranging from 111 to 129 mph. Category 3 hurricanes can rip off a roof deck, cause electricity and water outages, and result in water damage. Hurricane Sandy was a Category 3 storm; it caused power outages affecting 6 million customers and damaged more than 650,000 homes.
  • Category 4 hurricanes have winds of 130 to 156 mph. During these storms, roofing and siding can completely detach from property, large trees may be uprooted, and power lines can be knocked down. The resulting power outages, blocked roadways, and severe flooding can leave communities uninhabitable for weeks or even months. 
  • Category 5 hurricane winds reach speeds of 157 mph or more. A Category 5 hurricane can completely destroy property and cause catastrophic damage to communities. Hurricane Katrina is a notable example of a Category 5 hurricane, and destroyed more than 300,000 single-family homes.

It’s important to note that hurricanes can change categories as they travel; some even decrease in intensity after passing over islands, then re-intensify before hitting a different area of the coast.

Preparing Your Rental for a Hurricane in Advance

As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to ensure your tenants are prepared for hurricane season before it begins, and that you have the right insurance in place. To prepare for future hurricanes:

  • Educate your tenants. Be sure to inform your tenants of the hurricane risks in the property’s area and safety precautions they can take to remain safe in the event of a storm. If you don’t require renters insurance, you might want to recommend your tenants purchase a policy in case their personal belongings are damaged during a natural disaster. 
  • Confirm your insurance coverage. The possibility of insurance moratoriums makes it imperative to have right coverage in place well ahead of hurricane season. It’s important to keep in mind that hurricane coverage isn’t typically a single policy, but rather a combination of landlord and flood insurance. By making sure your policy includes adequate coverage for each of these perils, you can better protect your rental property in the event of a hurricane.  

In addition to speaking with your tenants and getting your insurance policy in order, it’s important to prepare the physical property for a hurricane. Even if you already perform regular property inspections, you can take the following steps to protect your rental property from hurricane winds and water:

  • Cut back weak branches and take down old or sick trees
  • Replace old garage doors and tracks
  • Seal outside wall openings
  • Clean the gutters to allow water to drain properly
  • Ensure all sump pumps have battery back-ups in good condition, or that the property has a generator for back-up power

Secure the Roof

Hurricanes can create powerful winds that can damage shingles and other roofing materials. If these materials aren’t securely attached, hurricane winds can peel them off and allow water to infiltrate your rental property. To ensure your roof is secure:

  • Nail down loose shingles. Any shingles that have come loose or aren’t securely nailed to your rental property’s roof should be re-nailed or replaced. Conduct roof inspection annually to check for any loose shingles. 
  • Use roofing cement on shingles. If you’re concerned about your shingles coming off, you can use a line of roofing cement around their edges to hold them down.
  • Put construction adhesive on rafters and trusses. Similar to reinforcing your shingles, you can secure your property’s rafters and trusses by using construction adhesive where they join with the roof deck.  
  • Reinforce your flashing. Flashing is a flat, thin piece of metal that is used to help waterproof a roof’s perimeter. Any gaps in your flashing could allow water to enter your rental property. If you see gaps or it looks like your flashing might be decaying, hire a professional to patch, reinforce, reseal, or replace it. 
  • Install tie-downs. If you’re worried your roof could fly away, tie-downs—or hurricane clips—can secure the roof to the tops of the walls. Having this securely in place can help ensure your roof won’t be picked up or flipped off of your rental property during a hurricane. 

Reinforce the Windows

Person climbing a ladder to do work on a set of windows.

High speed winds can send debris flying at your rental property’s windows, causing them to shatter. Once a window is broken, it opens up the home to dangerous elements outside. To protect the property’s windows, you can install hurricane shutters. Hurricane shutters can be installed and left in place year-round and deployed as a hurricane approaches. There are several styles of hurricane shutters, including:

  • Accordion: Accordion shutters are an affordable option. They get bolted to the sides of windows and open like an accordion.
  • Roll down: Roll down shutters are typically made of aluminum or steel and attach at the top of windows and roll down. These can open automatically or manually.
  • Bahama: Bahama shutters attach above the window. 
  • Colonial: Colonial shutters are attached to either side of a window and fold together when the window needs to be protected.

You can also replace windows with impact-resistant glass. Impact-resistant glass can provide extra reinforcement to windows to help prevent damage or injury caused by wind, water, or debris.  

Protecting Against an Impending Hurricane

If you live close to your rental property and find that it’s safe to go over there in the days before a hurricane is predicted to hit, you can take the following precautions:

  • Clear the yard. Make sure all garbage cans, lawn furniture, grills, propane tanks, tools, sports equipment, and building material are inside or under shelter so they can’t blow around during the storm.
  • Cover up the windows and doors. Use the storm shutters to protect the windows and keep your property safe from shattered glass. Check the weather seal on doors and reinforce any glass section of the door.  
  • Turn off the power to the pool equipment. If your rental property has a pool, shut off the equipment so it’s not in operation during the storm. You should also make sure the water is filled to 12 inches below the edge, and that all pumps are covered. 
  • Be ready to turn off the property’s power. If there’s flooding or downed power lines, be prepared to turn the rental property’s power off. 
  • Cover windows with plywood sheets. If you don’t have hurricane shutters, plywood sheets are an effective and affordable option for preventing window damage during a hurricane. While it can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, you can cut the plywood sheets to size and screw them into place on the exterior of the window when a hurricane approaches. 

Stay Ready With the Right Coverage

If you own a property in an at-risk area, you can and should prepare your rental property to limit hurricane damage. However, there’s no guarantee that even the most prepared rental property will emerge from a hurricane unscathed. That’s why it’s important to have the proper landlord insurance in place before disaster strikes. If you’re ready to get the right coverage for you, take the next step by getting an instant quote from Obie.