Emergency Situations: Tips On What Multifamily / Apartment Owners Need To Know

Water damage and flooding in an apartment.

Are you a multifamily / apartment property owner?

When you own multifamily residential rental properties, maintenance is an ongoing responsibility that will be dealt with regularly to try to prevent disasters. For instance, the series of storms Los Angeles and the rest of California experienced at the start of 2023 has probably made it abundantly clear owners who put off roof repairs just a little too long resulted in emergency repairs and mold remediation. No matter how conscientious you are about dealing with upkeep, it’s inevitable that someday you will have to deal with a major emergency, in which you’ll have to relocate tenants for their health and well-being while the property is being repaired. 

True Story: A Water Pipe Bursting In An Apartment

To give an example, we recently had a situation where a hot water pipe burst in an apartment building. Steam came up the pipes and damaged four units above the site of the break. Both drywall and the floors were affected, with the moisture creating the perfect environment for mold to grow—an obvious health hazard for the tenants. To compound the problem, this occurred in an older building, so before any work could be done, the units had to be tested for both asbestos and lead. The tenants needed to be relocated so remediation and repairs could be done swiftly and properly.

Before any repairs can be started, you need to understand what local regulations govern a landlord’s responsibilities for relocating tenants. Failing to understand how you’re required to proceed can add to the expense and headache of what is already likely an expensive and time consuming proposition.

What Multifamily Property Owners Need to Know?

Every city has its own rental regulations. If you’re unsure of the exact terms in your area, check with the city or your property manager to learn the provisions that govern when a tenant would need to be relocated and what you’re responsible for providing. In the city of Los Angeles, tenants can stay in a unit while repairs are taking place if they can return home to usable and safe conditions each day. This means functioning plumbing (including hot and cold running water as well as a working toilet and kitchen sink), heating, and electrical systems, as well as effective waterproofing and weatherproofing, intact doors and windows, etc. If the unit is not habitable, tenants will need to be in a comparable unit while repairs are in progress or be given a per diem rate for obtaining alternate accommodations. It is critical to check your city regulations before proceeding.

You should always have relocation terms spelled out in writing in your relocation agreement. In the midst of an emergency, it is critical to be on the same page with your tenants regarding the restoration of the apartment and where they will go. 

Often, you will need to file a document with the city to affirm that you are following local regulations for relocation. In the city of Los Angeles, this is known as the Tenant Habitability Program (THP). The city wants to know that your tenant is being taken care of and how long repairs will take. While this may seem like yet another hassle to deal with on top of the original emergency, it is necessary to avoid fines or other penalties. 

On the plus side, your insurance company can often help reimburse the expenses for repairs—but they may not be quick to do so. Having vendors who have worked with insurance companies before, and who knows the ins and outs of their bureaucracy, can make the difference between getting your repairs covered in a reasonable amount of time versus an ongoing headache of multiple follow-ups to get reimbursed.

In short, dealing with emergency repairs severe enough to require tenant relocation is complex. Inexperience, or even just not having enough time to give the issue your full attention, can lead to costly, avoidable mistakes that only make an expensive, stressful situation even worse. Having an experienced property manager who has successfully navigated through similar issues in the past can save you trouble and money in the long run.

Multifamily Property Management By Tiao Properties, Los Angeles

Tiao Properties is a full-service boutique real estate management and brokerage company with the experience and expertise necessary to keep your property running smoothly, even when unexpected issues crop up. Our comprehensive property management services provide professional guidance for both the day-to-day needs of a residential rental property as well as the sudden demands of emergencies, so you can enjoy the benefits of your investment without the stress. Our team can provide services in Spanish, Mandarin, and French for your convenience. To find out more about our professional, trustworthy property management, contact us here

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