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Lights Out! Landlords face a larger challenge today

The recent power outages created by a weather disturbance passing through Ontario were a good les...

The recent power outages created by a weather disturbance passing through Ontario were a good lesson for apartment landlords in terms of disaster preparedness and disaster recovery.

Some of our clients in the Ottawa area had the power supply to their buildings knocked out for up to five days.

Imagine being in that situation: you are a landlord owning several hundred apartment units in a complex that is filled mainly with seniors and now your power has gone out – with no guarantee of when it will return.

What do you do?

First and foremost, you focus on your customers. This may have been completely out of your control, but you have a responsibility to take care of these people: communicate with them often and do everything in your power to make them comfortable during a difficult situation.

Landlord finds way to help tenants

As an example of quick-thinking, one of our clients hooked up a generator to the building’s underground parking garage to allow residents to charge their electric vehicles. This gave residents the freedom to travel and also enabled them to charge their cellphones in their vehicles.

While this extra step in customer service was a benefit to the residents, I would say it also benefited the landlord. The residents driving around the city could see how the disruption and destruction they were experiencing was a community-wide phenomenon and not just something they experienced in their own building.

Quickly thinking of ways to help its customers was the right thing for the landlord to do, but it was beneficial to the landlord as well.

When my client shared this story with me, I couldn’t help but consider the sweeping government mandate we often hear about becoming a society transported only, or at least significantly, by electric cars as soon as possible, in the name of clean energy.

What if that were already the case when we experienced this five-day (or longer, in some areas) power outage?

All-electric vehicles? Or a diversity of options?

In our society, we’re always talking about diversity in everything from culture to investments – and for good reason. I think we need to recognize that a diversity of power sources is important as well.

If you live out in the country where hydro is often interrupted, I don’t think you want to rely solely on an electric vehicle. As another example, I certainly wouldn’t want all of my groceries being delivered to stores by electric trucks that can’t travel (re-charge) if the power goes out.

In this headlong rush to convert to electric-powered vehicles, let’s think about what happens when the power grid goes down.

People in the Ottawa region who were able to recharge their cellphones and travel to buy food and supplies thanks to their gasoline-powered cars, I’m sure, were grateful they hadn’t made the switch to an electric vehicle.

One solution does not fit all, and that is true in so many areas of life.  So often, we make these sweeping statements about how we should do X or Y to solve all our problems.

This type of thinking is flawed and misleading. Most problems involve a multitude of factors, requiring creative thinking and multiple solutions to solve at different levels.

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