Multifamily: Effectively Managing Disaster

Hurricanes and natural disasters don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if one lives in a one-room cabin or an 83-room castle, Mother Nature will do as she pleases, when and where she pleases. The secret to your apartment community surviving and thriving is a) preparedness long ahead of any disaster and; b) effectively managing the post-crisis process.

Professional apartment property managers have a unique challenge in the aftermath of disaster to be the perfect arbiter between owners and distressed tenants. Ideally, apartment property owners are caring and compassionate when faced with adversity and there exists a very clear contractual understanding of how restoration responsibilities are to proceed. Effective property managers prioritize life safety, resident and staff satisfaction, asset protection and profits.

Who’s in Charge?

Who is going to be in charge of restoration – management or the owner?

If management is in charge of restoration, and the owner/investor has positioned properly ahead of disaster with sufficient insurance coverage, financing resources and experienced, professional management in place, then a hurricane or covered natural disaster is simply going to accelerate a rehab and get paid for by the insurance carrier. This can be a long-term, win-win for owners, management, and residents. Who doesn’t like to live, own and manage a nice newly restored property? Management’s job is to maximize insurance proceeds and stretch those funds in the best possible way to add return on investment. Experienced management knows how to execute a recovery plan quickly and efficiently with preferred adjustors and experienced vendors.

When a multifamily property has been devastated by disaster and there is no insurance or money for repairs, the task ahead, depending on degree of damage, can be monumental. The first step in this scenario is to assess why insurance, financing and professional management were not in place prior to the disaster and rectify these immediately so ownership and the property are positioned effectively for any subsequent surprises. The next step is then to assess survivability of the investment and pursue repair or disposition whichever proves more viable through experienced due diligence.

If the owner is in charge of restoration and there is insurance and funding to proceed, your job as a third-party property manager is easy. You’re there to lease “ready” units quickly and efficiently as they come back on the rent roll. You will still need to remain compassion to residents and the community as the repair process proceeds.

As a multifamily property manager, one has to find the perfect balance between passion and dispassion, as this is often where sanity resides. Everyone will be pleased when you make the “right” decision based on each person’s own objectives and perspective. Sometimes, this can resemble a high wire balancing act.

As happened with the far-reaching affects of Hurricane Harvey, some apartment managers were personally affected and experienced loss of their own homes and possessions. This brings the challenge of managing disaster within your community while simultaneously joining the ranks as a victim of disaster.

It is absolutely the hardest job in the world to have lost everything yet still feel so passionate about your community, your residents and your owners, that you are there, right alongside, soldiering on to make the world better.

Understanding psychology in the midst of disaster can help make sense of chaos and irrational behavior. Denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance and depression are common stages of grief and can cycle back and forth. All the bargaining or melt-downs in the world won’t return things to the way they were. Recognizing stress and frustration simply for what they are while exercising greater patience and greater compassion with residents, staff and vendors lightens the load for all. Professional management leads by example. Take a deep breath, maintain a calm demeanor and keep executing per the plan. Firm but fair.

Be the Light You Seek

Restore the human connection. Commend staff for a job well done. Many have been working 24/7 since disaster hit. A bouquet of bright flowers for the office and a six-pack for the maintenance crew goes a long way to soften hardship and restore that human touch we all treasure.

How Did Your Multifamily Assets Fare?

Were you caught completely unprepared and off-guard in a disaster such as Hurricane Harvey? Now is the time to reassess. If you received property damage, professional apartment management can efficiently guide you through the recovery process. Experienced property management quickly pays for itself both during disaster and in traditional day-to-day operations.

If you did not receive property damage, count your lucky Texas stars, and promptly pursue professional management so you do not roll dice with your prized multifamily assets in the future. Events like Harvey don’t happen but a few times in a career, and no two are alike. Even those who have been through many are often surprised by the next one. Click here to review Better World Properties LLC and the Better World Family of Companies services.

If you are interested in a making it a better world, need help managing your apartment properties, would like an assessment of your portfolio’s state of disaster preparedness, or would like to explore apartment investment or disposition opportunities, please give us a call.

We love to talk apartments.

(713) 559-6975

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