1. Consider Renters Insurance.
It’s definitely not in everyone’s budget, but if you are able to afford renters insurance, it’s worth looking into. You can sometimes get surprisingly affordable coverage that will cover you in the event of a hurricane, flood, fire, or theft. Coverage will often help you replace furniture and personal items that are damaged as well as pay temporary living expenses if your rental is uninhabitable because of a covered event.
2. Take pictures of belongings.
If you do get renters insurance, take photos of the furniture, electronics and other personal items in your home, ideally with a date stamp, so you’ll have documentation to send to the insurance company if you should end up needing to file a claim.
3. Also take pictures of the inside of your unit, especially of any pre-existing damage.
After a hurricane some landlords might try to claim that pre-existing issues – like leaks, mold, or cracks in ceilings or walls – were the result of the storm when they in fact had been an issue before. You want to be able to show if this is true or not. Take photos, ideally with a date-stamp, of the inside of the unit, especially any damage or issues that need repairs.
4. Have supplies on hand for both sheltering in place or evacuating if that becomes necessary.
For sheltering in place, work on collecting supplies such as non-perishable food, water, and medication for everyone in your household; flashlights, battery-operated fans, a first aid kit, a radio, and diapers and formula or supplies for pets if needed. It’s also a good idea to have some cash on hand, as credit cards and ATMs often won’t work if the power is out, and to keep gas in your car in case you have to evacuate quickly. NOLA Ready and Imagine Water Works both have good guides with more information.
5. Get in touch with your neighbors and mutual aid networks.
Look into mutual aid networks in your community so you know where you can ask for and offer support in case of a hurricane or other disaster. Exchange contact information with your neighbors and check in with them, especially seniors and those with disabilities or young children. If you’re able to, offer to help them prepare, for example, by picking up extra supplies as you get your hurricane kit together.
6. If you do evacuate, bring important documents with you, including a copy of your lease.
It’s a good idea to gather your important documents – like IDs, birth certificates, insurance paperwork, etc. – ahead of time, so you’re able to grab it quickly if you need to evacuate. Make sure that you include a copy of your lease as well so you have it in the event that you’re not able to return home right away.
7. Prep your home before you leave if possible.
Some damage can’t be prevented, but it’s a good idea to do what you can to prep your home before you leave. If you have valuables that are too bulky to bring with you, like a TV, put them up on a counter or table in case of flooding. Unplug electronics before leaving and make sure that all doors and windows are secured. In order to avoid damage to your fridge (or at the least a very stinky clean up) if the power is out for an extended time, throw out perishable food before you leave. If that’s not financially feasible, you can place items inside a garbage bag and leave it in the fridge to make it easier to clean out later if needed. If you do leave food in the fridge/freezer, leave an ice cube on a plate in the freezer so you’ll be able to tell when you get back whether your food stayed cold (if the ice cube is still it’s original shape, your food is safe to eat; if it melted and then refroze, you’ll want to throw everything out).
8. Communicate with your landlord.
If you choose to evacuate, make sure to communicate your plans to evacuate with your landlord, ideally over text so you have written documentation of the communication. Also make sure to notify them that you have not abandoned the property and that you intend to return once it’s safe to do so.
9. Save receipts from evacuation expenses.
If you have renters insurance, some or all of these expenses might be covered by your policy. Save receipts for things like gas, food, water and hotels just in case. Even if you don’t have insurance, there might be disaster aid available in the wake of a hurricane and it could be helpful to have documentation of your losses.
10. Know your rights!
If your home is habitable after a hurricane or other disaster, you have the right to stay. As of August 1st, 2022, renters in Louisiana have new legal protections against unfair evictions, and a judge must be the one to make the decision about whether you can be evicted, not your landlord. If your landlord tries to illegally evict you after a hurricane, or changes the locks or removes your belongings, call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at (844) 244-7871 or Acadiana Legal Services at (800) 256-1175.