By: Eveline Brownstein (c)
The recent Hurricane Irene flooded one of my rental properties. Despite our best efforts to prepare, and all of the efforts of my tenants, the Sandy Hook Bay rose approximately one foot into the home. There was plenty of despair to go around. My tenants have lost their home (temporarily) and I have investment losses. The losses do not compare to the relationships I have come to learn are really important.
As a property manager, during the years, I have had the opportunity to foster good relationships with various contractors. The obviously necessary ones: a great plumber named Al Quackenbush, a great electrician, named Steve Douglas; a super dependable and fair demolition and hauling company called Jersey Shore Hauling; and, my buddy at AT Heating and Cooling. I also have worked to foster a level of trust and honesty with my tenants. My tenants know that if there are issues with the home, I can be depended upon to rectify them and see to them promptly.
Have you ever walked into a flooded home? It’s pretty depressing. The city where the home was located was under evacuation orders, so our tenants were safely removed from the home before the flood. I was in constant communication with them and told them that if evacuation orders were given, I urged them to comply. After the flooding receded we went over to the home to assess the damage. Some furniture losses for my tenant and some more significant losses to the home. I was faced with how to rectify the issues to give my tenants back their home, or face losing a two-year lease tenant. We had to wait till the power was turned back on to evaluate what could be recovered and what was lost.
Not being all that familiar with flood issues, I called a company who stakes its reputation on a slogan of making restorations to the home “as though it never even happened.” Mine was not the only home affected in this way. The company was very backed up and wouldn’t make it out to even take a look for several days. Concerns over mold and bacteria growth began to nag at me. I needed to get action on the home immediately. I made a few more phone calls. All the dry-out, restoration companies were swamped with appointments several days out. I’m simply not that easily defeated.
I called Jersey Shore Hauling. We’ve had a positive, ongoing relationship for several years. Frank told me that he could see the home right away and start demolition the next day…and he did. Even though there were a few surprises, he and his crew worked liked crazy and got the damaged drywall, wet insulation and all the damaged cabinetry out of the home in a single day. It was two dumpster’s worth. The same day, Juan of AT Heating and Cooling was out at the home looking at the air-conditioning unit, which sadly could not be recovered, but together we figured out a strategy to raise the new condenser by two feet and a day when the old one would be removed so that I could begin building a raised slab.
Al Quackenbush, my plumber, not only replaced a lost water heater in the basement of my own home when the power went out during the Hurricane, rendering the sump pump useless, but the same day he went over to the rental property and assessed the boiler and the water heater. Thankfully, they are fine.
While out at the property, I ran into a neighbor who is also a licensed contractor. I offered him to bid on the property repairs and he was pleased to work with me. He sees my vision and is practical. He will have a crew there the day after Labor Day to start the washing and cleaning process and then we will fully dry the house out, make framing repairs and replacements, install the new insulation and then start putting back up the new drywall. The big advantage to using this contractor is that he lives two doors down. He can monitor the job and be very “hands on.”
Today, I ordered replacement kitchen cabinets made of solid wood from www.greendemolitions.com. They recycle entire kitchens when homeowners decide they want a change or kitchen displays are renewed by kitchen remodeling companies. I also ordered waterproof, mold and mildew resistant insulation called Prodex, the best product I know of for insulation, which I get from www.insulation4less.com. It’s cost effective, has a high R-rating for its insulating properties and if the home should ever flood again, it can be dried, rather than removed, but should it need to be replaced, its reasonable cost makes even replacement affordable.
As things stand now, my tenants are extremely happy with my prompt response and are complimenting me as a landlord They are excited to move back into their home as soon as it is once again habitable. Compliments aside, this is what I do and this is what makes me a first-class property manager. I problem solve and I am relentless until the job is complete. I never lose sight of the fact that the house I am renting out is my tenants’ home a well as an owner’s investment; both aspects are vitally important to the success of my business.
In a crisis, the relationships you have fostered with real people, be they tenants, contractors or owners, will serve to ensure that your company’s property management reputation shines. Taking the time to build those relationships in a positive and productive way in ordinary times will serve your company really well when it really matters.