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Updated August 30: Reminders and resources for coping with impact of Hurricane Harvey

Synopsis

Note: For the latest resources and information about coping with the aftermath of the storm, visit our disaster resources page.

Hurricane Harvey/Tropical Storm Harvey has caused record rainfall and flooding in parts of Texas, and continues to pose risks for the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Here are some resources from the Texas Apartment Association, the American Red Cross and others to help property owners deal with the impact from the storm.


Key takeaways

  • Check this article for resources and tips from the Texas Apartment Association, the American Red Cross, other state and national agencies, and more.
  • Remember that price gouging for necessities following a disaster is prohibited in Texas.
  • Review your options for abating or accepting late rent, or for terminating tenancies when your property has sustained substantial damage.
  • Get the facts about insurance claims and the new state law that takes effect September 1.

Hurricane Harvey/Tropical Storm Harvey has already caused record rainfall and flooding in some parts of Texas and continues to pose risks for the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Here are some important reminders and resources from the Texas Apartment Association, the American Red Cross and others that may be useful. Property owners and managers may find these resources useful. Renters can find resources here.

Important reminders

Price gouging prohibited

Texas law prohibits charging excessive or exorbitant fees for certain life necessities, including housing, following a disaster. The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection line accepts price-gouging complaints.

Properties that use dynamic pricing should be careful not to automatically adjust rents in a way that may be perceived as price gouging.

Here is the relevant state law:

Section 17.46(b) of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act provides that it is a false, misleading or deceptive act or practice to take advantage of a disaster declared by the Governor under Chapter 418, Government Code, by:

  1. Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or
  2. Demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine or another necessity.

September 1 rent payments

Rental property owners should keep their property’s current situation in mind when dealing with September 1 rental due dates. Under the TAA Lease, there is no obligation to abate rent or accept late rent, but nothing precludes TAA members from voluntarily abating all or part of the rent as a gesture of goodwill and compassion.

Considerations may include the extent of damage on your property, the availability of your staff to accept rental payments, your plans to repair damage, as well as other factors. Ultimately, this is a business decision.

Termination due to natural disaster or catastrophe

If you believe that catastrophic damage is substantial, or that performance of needed repairs poses a danger to residents, Paragraph 26.5 of the TAA Lease allows the owner to terminate the lease by giving residents at least 5 days’ written notice. Find a sample notice for this purpose and a similar notice for tax-credit properties.

The Texas Property Code does not dictate how this notice should be delivered. You should attempt to deliver the notice to the resident by the best available means that will allow you an opportunity to prove that notice was delivered. See “Rental Housing Owners’ Rights and Legal Responsibilities after a Natural Disaster or Other Catastrophe.”

Insurance claims and changes effective September 1

Filing insurance claims promptly when able is important, but there is a rash of misinformation circulating concerning a change in Texas law that takes effect September 1. While damage assessments and documentation are key to both relief efforts and the claims process, protecting life and property should be your primary concern when conditions are still dangerous.

HB 1774, designed to limit lawsuit abuses in weather-related cases, goes into effect on September 1. According to the Texas Insurance Council, under this new property litigation law:

  • The claims process for filing a claim has not changed. The new law only impacts lawsuits filed after September 1, when there is a dispute between the insured and the insurer.
  • Consumers still have all legal remedies available under consumer protection laws in the event an insurer engages in bad-faith conduct.
  • The Texas Department of Insurance is available to handle any complaints about insurers.
  • The new law does not take away any right to sue and does not diminish any cause of action that a person has against an insurance company. HB 1774 does, however, require notice before a lawsuit is filed, and makes some other changes that impact lawsuits against insurers, including the penalty interest rate.
  • The pre-lawsuit notice is effective for all “actions filed on and after the effective date, which is September 1, 2017.” Any lawsuit filed after September 1, 2017, would be governed by the new law.

HB 1774 also only affects homeowners’ insurance claims, which does not cover flood or wind damage claims.

TAA members should contact their insurance companies directly to file claims, and work with your adjuster to identify all damages and coverages.

How you can help

The Texas Apartment Association is making a $10,000 donation to the American Red Cross to assist with Harvey relief efforts. The National Apartment Association also has pledged $10,000 to the American Red Cross.

If you’d like to help contribute to Harvey relief efforts, text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief or visit The American Red Cross.

Please share any of your industry efforts with TAA and NAA by emailing Michelle Helmers at TAA (michelle@taa.org) or NAA (communications@naahq.org). Consider sharing your efforts on TAA’s Facebook page and tag any related social media posts #HelpForHouston.

Texas Apartment Association disaster resources

Rental housing owners’ rights and legal responsibilities after a natural disaster or other catastrophe:This article outlines a property owners options following disaster-caused damage to the property.

Questions & Answers about property damage caused by a natural disaster: Answers to some common questions that arise following natural disasters.

“Termination Notice Due to Natural Disaster or Catastrophe”: This form permits the owner to end the lease contract early and regain possession of the badly damaged unit so that repairs and remediation can be undertaken.

“Termination Notice Due to Natural Disaster or Catastrophe for TDHCA-Regulated Affordable Housing”:This notice complies with rules for affordable housing regulated by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

“Emergency Post-Disaster/Post-Catastrophe Notice to Our Residents”: Sample notice to advise residents of steps to be taken by owner and residents following a disaster.

“Lease Addendum Allowing Temporary Increased Occupancy Because of Fire, Natural Disaster or Catastrophe”: This notice permits a temporary increase in occupancy (say, allowing family members or friends not typically on the lease) as a result of a disaster.

TAA Disaster Preparedness Guide includes tools and resources to help your apartment community be prepared for the quickest possible response when a disaster or emergency occurs, including issues arising from flooding.

The guide includes checklists and tools for responding to some of the most common natural and man-made disasters and emergencies.

The guide also provides:

  • Best practice suggestions on communication with employees, residents and the media;
  • An emergency contact information template;
  • General procedures that apply to all emergencies; and
  • Things to consider after a disaster strikes.

Disaster preparedness tips and reminders (May 2017 newsletter article): This article includes helpful tips and resources to help members cope with crises and limit their impact.

“Notice to Community Residents about Hurricane Warning”: This sample notice can be provided to residents to advise them of preparations to take in advance of the storm.

 

American Red Cross Hurricane/Flood Preparedness Resources

Emergency App

Download the Red Cross Emergency App to have safety information available on mobile devices, including emergency weather alerts and information on what to do in the case of a flood. The app also displays shelter locations.

For your residents, the app includes tips on how to assemble an emergency kit in the event of a power outage or evacuation, an “I’m Safe” button to let loved ones know they’re okay, and a real-time map to help find the location of Red Cross shelters should they need to leave their home. The app has a Spanish language toggle switch and can be downloaded by visiting redcross.org/apps.

Evacuation Shelters

Locate Red Cross shelters.

If someone is coming to a shelter and has time to prepare, they should bring any prescription medications, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, important documents and other comfort items. If possible, they should also include any special items for children such as diapers, formula and toys, and items needed by family members with unique needs.

For more information on what to do before, during and after a flood, please visit redcross.org/prepare/ disaster/flood.

Information from other agencies

Find Red Cross information for your area

Red Cross general tips for preparing for an emergency

Create and practice a disaster plan

Talk to everyone in your household about what to do if a flood occurs. Decide where you would meet and who you would contact in case of flooding. Assemble and maintain an emergency preparedness kit. Be prepared to evacuate your family and pets at a moment’s notice. To locate the nearest Red Cross emergency shelter, check your Emergency App or visit redcross.org/shelter. Listen to area radio and television stations for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress.

Have a disaster kit

People should get their disaster kits ready. Include a gallon of water per person—enough for three days, three-day supply of non-perishable food, a flashlight and extra batteries, a hand crank weather radio, first aid kit, medications, personal hygiene items, extra cash, cell phone and chargers, family and emergency contact information, copies of important papers and a map of the area. More details on what to include are available here.

Heed flood warnings

Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated flood information.  A flood WATCH means flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area. A flood WARNING means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.

Never drive on flooded roads

Don’t walk, swim or drive through floodwater. Just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Stay out of areas subject to flooding. Underpasses, dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc. can become filled with water.

Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

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