How to Clean Up Storm Damage at Your Apartment
Natural disasters are an unfortunate part of life that leave a trail of destruction in their path that can take months to clean up. Flooding is a prime example of the damage a natural disaster can cause.
Apartments are affected by natural disasters in different ways than a detached house would be, and some of the burden may fall on the tenants to get things cleaned up. So how do you know what you're responsible for and what your landlord needs to take care of?
We're here to clear it all up for you. Read on for everything you need to know about storm damage cleanup in your apartment.
Start with your "irreplaceables"
If you find your apartment flooded, whether from a hurricane or other severe storm, or even a damaged home water system, you may also find yourself in a race against the clock. The longer your belongings are in contact with floodwaters, the higher the likelihood for damage.
As soon as it's safe to do so, remove your important belongings. This could include documents, photos, keys – anything you can't live without and can't be easily replaced.
Who is responsible for what?
Now it's time to start cleaning up, a process that could take days, weeks or even months to complete. One of the hardest parts of apartment storm damage cleanup is identifying who is responsible for what repairs.
You may have a landlord that you know directly or maybe you rent from a large, impersonal property management company. Regardless, it's likely that some of the cleanup burdens lie on them and not on you as the renter.
Landlords are typically only responsible for the structural components of the units they rent and not for the tenant's belongings. Unless there's a case of landlord negligence, it's usually the responsibility of the tenant to repair damages to their personal property. That's why renter's insurance is so important. Among other things, it's there to cover damages caused by a natural disaster.
If you're unsure about who is ultimately responsible for specific parts of the damages, you can always consult your lease. If the answer is not there, you should contact your landlord directly and be honest and firm.
And if you're still unsure or you're at an impasse with your landlord, you can always contact a lawyer. You can even ask specific questions to lawyers online without having to step foot in a law firm. This is especially helpful if a disaster struck your region as local lawyers are probably busy with their own cleanup efforts.
Dry everything out
One of the most obvious causes of damage is the water, which is why it's important to get rid of it as soon as possible. Whether this falls on your or your landlord's shoulders, it's important that you know the best and safest way to dry everything out.
If you live in a basement apartment, the removal of floodwaters is extremely important. Because the outside walls are pushing inward by the weight of water in the soil and the water inside your basement is balancing that pressure by exerting weight outwards, removing the water suddenly could cause the wall to cave in. Instead, you should remove two to three feet of water per day.
In all other apartments, the floodwaters should naturally recede as soon as your city's infrastructure can handle drainage again. However, there are proactive steps you can take to make this happen as quickly as possible.
Check for debris in all the drains in your area. You should also clear all entrances to your home and move your belongings so they aren't preventing the water from receding.
Please note that floodwater is often contaminated with diseases and bacteria and can even contain raw sewage particles. When you're in contact with floodwater, you should wear protective gear. Also, never consume anything that came into contact with floodwater, even if it was sealed.
Take the next steps
After the water is fully removed from your apartment and your items are dried out, there's still more to do. Flooding can stain drywall, warp structural components, permanently damage your floors and even affect the foundation of buildings. Again, most of this should be the responsibility of the building owner, but you may have to handle cosmetic cleanup if it's in your lease.
If you're pretty handy, you can undertake a lot of the cleanup on your own, if your landlord is in agreement. There are guides to DIY flood water damage cleanup including one from the American Red Cross that is impressive and completely comprehensive.
If you can't handle your portion of the apartment storm damage cleanup efforts on your own, you can consider hiring a professional. Flood restoration specialists have the know how to get your apartment cleaned quickly, which could actually save you from potential losses – both financial and personal.