Post Hurricane Sally Update
We are safe after Hurricane Sally, but there is much devastation in the area. As we last reached out to you, Hurricane Sally was anticipated to make landfall in MS as a weak Hurricane 1, but at the last moment, the storm decided to move north. Hurricane Sally made landfall on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 as a Category 2 Hurricane with 105 mph winds in Gulf Shores, AL a mere 30 minutes from Southwest Pensacola, putting Pensacola on the east and "wet" side of the storm. We received over 30 inches of rain in some areas of Pensacola on top of a storm surge of 3-5 feet. 

Not local and want to see some photos? 

Many of your rentals and our personal homes have varying degrees of damage including tree, fence, siding, roof, and flooding damages. We are finally with power, phones, and internet at our office but many of our personal homes are still without these luxuries, as are your tenants as nearly 50% of Pensacola is without power. Thus, we are still receiving damage reports from tenants and prioritizing them.

We are asking tenants to upload a damage report and include photos of the property. Despite limited gas, we have already visited all vacant properties. We have brought in additional help and our team will continue to work around the clock to communicate as fast and efficiently as possible. We ask for your help and your patience during this recovery process. This will, unfortunately, create increased economic difficulties for you and your tenants. As with everything this year, we will work hard to come through this with experience, strength and optimism. 

This newsletter is packed with information that will help clarify some important items during this time. Please review it and reach out with questions. 

Nicole, Christine, Pam and the rest of the Realty Masters team
The Property Owner's Role
The Property Owner's Role and Realty Masters' Role
Realty Masters is not a general subcontractor and cannot, by Florida law, coordinate over $5,000 without a general subcontractors license. If your property has sustained major damages, you will need to take an active role in gathering estimates and coordinating repairs. As your property manager, our role is limited to renting your home, enforcing the lease, collecting rent, working with your tenant, coordinating minor repairs and turnover, providing routine documentation and inspections on your home, and handling the move out process.

As much as we are willing to help, we need you to know that it is not our responsibility to provide for or pay for any repairs on your home. You must take the lead role in handling the restoration of your property if your property sustains major damages. Please remember, per our management agreement, we are only authorized to approve up to $200 in repairs. Our work is significantly increased. We are happy to do our part with coordinating appointments, taking extra documentation and photos, working with contractors, and keeping your tenant updated and satisfied during this process. 

Multiple Estimates
We are unable to gather multiple estimates at this time. Maintenance resources are limited and it will be difficult to get one estimate. There are a ton of contractors coming into the marketplace that are not local and we will have no recourse on these contractors in the future.  If your insurance company is requesting, or you are desiring, multiple estimates for each bid, you will need to assist us in getting these items. Our roofing companies (who are general contractors) have lists with hundreds of addresses on them. Luckily, we have a few roofing companies, a few general contractors, handymen, and tree people that we work with often that are prioritizing us.
Payment for Repairs
While we typically work off a 30 day payment plan with our vendors, in these instances, we are unable to ask the vendors to do this. If we do not have payment, the vendors may skip your job and go to another. We need you to understand that work must be authorized and paid for at the time we are ordering services. We will ask that you sign a repair authorization and send funds when authorizing work. If we do not have confirmation of funds, we will have to ask you to coordinate any repairs and be responsible for payment. Most of these contractors are NOT willing to wait for insurance, although we have a roofer who is. 

Local Owners & Resources
If you are a local owner, we ask that you please assist your property manager during this time. If you have a local vendor that you wish to use once we send you the information about damages, please let us know. You will need to contact and pay that vendor if they are not registered with us. While permits are not required for emergency repairs, many items are required to be permitted and/or done by a qualified contractor, not a handyman. We encourage you to utilize contractors that are licensed and insured to limit your liability as a property owner. In fact, the local news reported a gentlemen who fell 40 feet while doing tree work yesterday.
$30 Trip Fee Will Be Imposed
Because of the limited gas and enormous amount of work and trips to the property, we will be charging $30 trip charge for each time we have to go to the property for hurricane related items. Per the management agreement, “In the event of a disaster, extreme weather event or Act of God  including but not limited to a hurricane, tropical storm, flood, tornado freeze, sinkhole or other disaster, extreme weather event or Act of God, BROKER shall charge $30.00 for each trip to the property subject of this Agreement to assess damage and address any needed repairs caused by such disaster, extreme weather event or Act of God.” 
Filing Insurance Claims
Locate your insurance policies now in case you need to make a claim. Review your plans and deductibles. Flood damages are not covered under insurance. Please remember that we are not attorneys, insurance adjusters, or insurance agents. We ask that you contact your insurance agent and/or insurance carrier to ask detailed questions in regards to your insurance policy.  
We will not be filing an insurance claim on your behalf. It will be up to you once we have notified you of any damage for you to file a claim. You may give your Property Manager's name and number for a contact person and we will be glad to meet the adjuster at the property on your behalf.

We cannot determine if you should or need to file an insurance claim, if the insurance claim will cover your damages, or if it's worth filing an insurance claim. You can always a file a claim and not carry forward with the claim. It may be worth contacting your insurance company to see if there is a timeline that you would need to file a claim in, in case damage is discovered later. 

Suggesting Home Inspections 
While many of the damage reports are coming from your tenants, neither your residents or our team are fully qualified to asses any damage to your home caused by Hurricane Sally. Because of this, we cannot make the determination as to whether or not you should file a claim on your property for damages. We would suggest that you contact an inspector to check for damage to the roof, windows, or any other damage to access if the damage is sufficient to file an insurance claim. 

As of now, we have multiple home inspectors that are available to provide a qualified assessment. Currently, we have two options for services related to the hurricane:
  • A limited inspection of the roof and attic via a roof certification from Pensacola Insurance Inspections for $60 at (850) 417-7934.
  • A complete summary report to include the roof and attic, as well as additional areas inside and outside of the home from Beacon Inspection Group for $150 at (850) 288-1738. 
  • If you would like us to put your property or properties on the list for one of these inspections, please reach out to let us know and send funds for the inspection.
  • You are welcome to contact your own home inspector to perform this service.
Not only will this provide you an unbiased account of the condition of your property post storm, it will serve as documentation for the insurance company if needed.

Typically, when we are concerned of roof issues, we would send a roofer to check out the property. That is not an option at this time unless your property has suffered extreme damages as those are being prioritized. Roofers are not able to visit your property at no cost to see if any damage occurred. We would not like to assume there is no damage just because it did not leak and there is no evidence or report of shingle loss as we do not think this would be in your best interest. Thus, we feel a home inspection is a timely, smart option.

Loss of Use
If your property needs to be vacated for repairs or is uninhabitable, read below about Uninhabitable Properties, but also, ask your insurance company about loss of use under your insurance policy. Does your policy pay you payments to help assist with your mortgage? This is important to discuss up front. 
Roof Damages
Roof Damages
Many of the more severe reports of damage we received involve roof damage. While it's normal for a small amount of rain to come in during a storm like this from sideways rain, we are unable to determine if the storm created some water damage inside from a boot, ridge vent, or similar minor structure on the roof, or if the storm created significant roof damage. Obviously, some roofs are more damaged than others and some damage can be observed from the ground, but others cannot. We do not want to advise you that your house is fine as we may not be able to see damage at this time. Again, this is why we are suggestion a professional home inspection and/or an insurance claim and adjuster to determine this. 

Roofing Companies
We do have two roofers ready and able to provide roofing estimates and working on items for us. We also have a roofer Bill Walther Roofing that will agree to accept what the insurance company will pay him, less the deductible, and willing to meet with the adjuster, place a tarp on the property if necessary, and work with insurance. They are asking property owners to sign an Insurance Proceeds Proposal.

Please note, your insurance company can deny your claim and you would still be responsible for payment should that happen.

You are welcome to contact your own roofing company to gather estimates. Please keep in mind that even if the contractors are looking at exterior repairs, they can startle a tenant and notice should be made prior to the contractor's arrival. Please notify us should you dispatch anyone to complete repairs.  

Repairs versus Replacement
Consider the age of your roof and the extent of the damage before you consider the option to repair your roof. While it may be an easier and cheaper solution, it is likely not the best option in the future. Repairs are NOT warranted. If you experience another roof leak in the same or a different area, the roofer will not repair for free again. If insurance will approve a claim for a new roof with your deductible, it may make more sense to replace the roof rather than try to repair multiple damages. Additionally, if you go to sell your home and have a roof life of over 15 years, you may need to replace it at that time, or may need to replace it to continue with an insurance policy anyways. 

Tarping Roofs 
From our experience with Hurricane Ivan, which hit 16 years ago on September 16, 2004, we know that tarps are not always the best option. If a tarp is installed wrong or over your entire roof, it can cause more damage than the shingle loss or initial issue. We are only authorizing tarps without nails at this time unless we know that the roof must be replaced.  

However, we are expecting rain later this week. While there is no perfect solution, paying for a tarp can prevent additional damage. You must authorize us to have a vendor tarp your roof and send payment for this immediately. 

FEMA is not yet in the area. We anticipate that FEMA will be coming in and doing tarps for free. With this in mind, you may be able to sign up for this option by calling by Army Corp of Engineers at (888) 766-3258 to put your name on a list. This is done free of charge and will cover the roof while we await insurance and a roofing company to install a new roof. Because of the amount of nails used by this method, we will NOT be approving this on your behalf as this will surely require a new roof. 

We do have handyman available to tarp roofs with a less invasive method for a fee, which is typically a few hundred dollars. 

General Contractors
Again, a lesson learned with Hurricane Ivan is that general contractors are a great option to handle all repairs instead of piecemealing repairs. Unfortunately, in our scope of work as a property manager, we don't work with that many general contractors but do have a few that will be assisting us. You are welcome to hire a general contractor or ask the insurance companies if they have any that they work with! This is a best case scenario for major damages like floods and interior/exterior damages as they can handle ALL repairs at the property and not just a specialized area like a fence or roof. 
Flood Damages
Some of the worst damage in a storm results from flooding. Remember, flood damages are NOT covered under your normal insurance policy unless you have a separate flood insurance policy. It is imperative that you react fast to prevent mold growth and further damages. With the heat and humidity, this happens fast.

Immediate measures should be taken once confirmation of insurance is secured which might include removing wet flooring, sheetrock in walls or ceilings so that the structure can dry out. This work is VERY expensive, and we will not be able to authorize this without you making a direct agreement with a remediation company. Please make contact with your insurance company and ask them for the limit allowed for emergency repairs. We have several restoration companies on standby but they are inundated with commercial requests. We are not remediation companies and do not know that handymen are able to successfully remedy these situations, but do have them available to tear out sheetrock and flooring. 

Flooded properties are best handled by general contractors as they require extensive repairs and certain measures to be taken. Water that comes in from a storm often carries certain bacteria and pathogens. We cannot simply clean your carpets and put a few fans out to remedy these situations or you will have extensive mold growth. 
If your property is flooded, the best case scenario is for your tenant to vacate for a number of reasons. If the entire property was flooded or if the tenant is already mentioning health or mold and mildew concerns. 
Uninhabitable Properties Due to Extensive Damage or Flooding 
If your property has suffered damage that makes the property uninhabitable, we can most likely give the tenant a 7-day or 15-day notice to terminate occupancy based on the scope of damages under the Condemnation, Damage to Premises, Acts of God and Termination Clause of the tenants lease agreement.

Under these circumstances, we will need to refund the tenant a credit of rent from the date of the event, September 16, 2020. We do NOT have money in your account to do this.  We will also need to release the tenant’s deposit under these circumstances without the normal  move out procedures. We will ask the tenant to remove their possessions to the property prior to releasing the deposit unless you authorize otherwise. Considering the extensive losses your tenants suffered in this situation, it seems fair to forego cleaning and any minor damages. 

While you may not want to move your tenant out, in many cases, this is the fastest, safest, and best way to restore your property. The last thing you want on top of an extensive insurance claim is a lawsuit or medical bills for mold. Mold grows fast here in Florida and tenant's make a huge fuss of ANY amount of mold despite the large amounts in the air here and the normal allowed amount in each person's household. Mold testers will come and offer tests to tenants which will show mold in nearly any home in Pensacola. 
Our lease agreements state:
If for any reason the premises are condemned by any governmental authority, destroyed, rendered uninhabitable, rendered dangerous to persons or property, and/or damaged through fire, water, smoke, wind, flood, act of God, nature or accident, or if it becomes necessary, in the opinion of LANDLORD or its agent, that TENANT must vacate the premises in order for repairs to the premises to be undertaken, this lease shall, at LANDLORD'S option and upon 7 days written notice to TENANT, terminate and TENANT, if not in default of the lease, shall owe no further rent due under the terms of the lease. In such case, TENANT hereby waives all claims against LANDLORD for any damages suffered as a result of such condemnation, damage, destruction, or lease termination.
FEMA and Red Cross Funds Are Not Available 
Sadly, there is no assistance available area in the area yet from any large non-profits or from the government at this time. We are awaiting a declaration to unlock FEMA money that can help not only owners with damages but tenants with immediate relocation assistance. At this time, aside from food and water from local non-profits and churches, United Way has NO resources for our tenants for loss of possessions, relocation assistance, temporary lodging, etc. This, coupled with extreme living situations, is causing tenants, especially in those properties badly affected, to be very desperate and upset. We are in our own situations with flooded properties and no power for days, with hundreds of urgent work order requests. Please help us to assist your tenants by approving repairs by sending funds to remedy these urgent situations. 

We were experiencing record low inventory prior to the flood and have very few rentals available to relocate tenants with dozens of applications being submitted daily. This event will leave many local tenants homeless, forced to relocate, or living with friends and family for some time. Tenants are very upset and are blaming us (and you) for their flooding and major loss events. Please, be kind even when these residents are not, and try to sympathize with their situation. We are trying the same. 

We will keep you posted on any news we find for property owners affected once FEMA funds are available. 
Fence Damages
Fence Damages
In our last newsletter, we spoke about delayed availability in products due to COVID, especially lumber. With a huge demand and a lower supply than ever, there will be a delay in getting properties rehabbed and especially delays to repairing and replacing fences. 
If the fence leaning and in danger of falling on something, has fallen, is in poor health, it needs to be addressed and removed for safety.  We will need to determine if the fence can be salvaged and reused. If not, due to the shortage of lumber, it may be sometime before we can fence the yard again. The tenants will not be happy about this as has already been expressed by many. We can also look at other options including chain link fencing or wait on a quote to replace wooden fences.  
Tree Damages
Tree Damages 
While winds were not necessarily high enough to cause such tree devastation, ground saturation in combination with wind speeds caused widespread tree damage in the area including downed and uprooted trees on fences, trees, power lines and properties as well as leaning and broken trees.  

We have a lot of damaged trees and are prioritizing those that are on top of structures and those that can be safety issues. As it will be nearly impossible to send two companies to get two estimates, if you have a dangerous tree situation, you will need to approve the estimate immediately and have payment ready via credit card or another avenue to send to the vendor directly. Local tree companies have lists with over 300 names on them and many of these are pressing situations. 

We will be dispatching minor tree damage to our lawn companies and it will take some time to get estimates in from larger trees down on the property as tree companies are the first to become backlogged. 

While most tree work is not covered under insurance policies, you may qualify for a casualty loss deduction. Please ask your tax professional for more details. 

Fence/Tree Damages and Insurance
Unfortunately, insurance companies do not like to pay for damages to fences and expenses to remove trees. They typically deny these claims, although we would encourage you to discuss this with your insurance company. 

We have seen trees covered when they had fallen on a property and removal was necessary to sustain the integrity of the structure. It is not common that fences are covered on your policy. Please keep this in mind when approving repairs.

Tenants Contents
We've gotten a lot of questions on this. You are not responsible for your tenant's contents when they are damaged, according to the lease. 

Similarly, they are not responsible for handling and paying for clean up of the property beyond basic lawn care after the hurricane. Any larger limbs on the roof or in the yard will need to be addressed by you, the homeowner, and not put on the tenant. For liability reasons, we shy away from asking tenants to handle these items. 
Florida Fence and Property Law Handbook outlines common dilemmas when it comes to items such as fences and trees, as they often sit on the border between properties. We get a lot of questions about this so have some answers to your frequently asked tree and fence questions here. 

Common Tree Disputes and Questions
  • What if a neighbors tree falls on your property? You are responsible for any tree limbs or trees that fall on your property, or at least the portion on your property.
  • What if your tree falls on a neighboring property? They are responsible for the portion on their property and you are responsible for the portion on your property. Now, if you are aware of dangerous situation or ignore a dangerous situation now, there may be some liability for you if a tree on your property falls on a neighboring structure. This would involve court cases and litigation in order to bring suit, however, it does happen. 
  • Do I have to address a tree that is now damaged but appears to be secure? Florida Law says that homeowners have the legal duty to make reasonable inspections and take care to make sure the tree is safe. So, yes, we should have the tree addressed as there can also be liability to the tenant if they, or their property, were to be hurt or injured from this. 
  • Who owns the tree? If the trunk lies solely in the neighbor's yard, the neighbor owns the tree.
  • What if tree limbs are hanging over your property from a neighboring tree? You have the right to trim those trees to protect your property as long as the limbs are healthy and it won't damage the tree. The neighbor is not responsible for doing this. 

Common Fence Disputes and Questions 
  • Whose fence is it? We didn't install that! This is tricky and would require a professional and a survey in order to answer this question. Does the fence clearly sit on one property? You can consult the land survey you received when you purchased your property to help answer this question. If it's clearly on one side, that answers the question more easily. Go ahead and locate your land surveys to assist us with these disputes. 
  • If my neighbor's fence fell, do I have to pay to rebuild it? You are under no obligation to share in the expenses of the fence unless you agree to this. This does happen and is a good idea to reach out to neighboring property owners to discuss this. We would appreciate your assistance in doing this if you would like to take this route. We can help by providing the information from tax rolls to the neighboring property owners. 
  • What if the fence sits on the boundary lines between the two properties? If the fence runs along the boundary line and sits on both properties, there may be some shared responsibility in the fence. The "neighborly" thing to do is to share in the costs. The law does point to "use" as well and that's hard to determine since you are the landlord and not the occupant. 

You can read more on  Florida's Fence and Property Law here. Remember, we are not attorneys and just providing general guidance here. If you have specific property questions, we would encourage you to discuss them with your insurance agent or other experts in this industry. 
Questions or Concerns about your Property?
If you have any questions or concerns about your rental property, please respond to this email to reach a supervisor or reach out to your contact. We look forward to hearing from you. 
Realty Masters of Florida
4400 Bayou Blvd 58B, Pensacola, FL 32503
Call us Monday- Saturday at 850.473.3983
Hours Mon-Fri 8a - 5p | Sat 8a -2p 
Emergency Line (850) 512-6019