Plan to Rent?

Plan to Rent?
If you’re planning on renting, you may want to rent a house or apartment that was built after about 1980, or if older, that has been certified as earthquake safe or that has been fully retrofitted. We encourage you to seriously consider your safety before renting or occupying an unreinforced brick, stone, cinder block, or other masonry building (URM).

The Good news!
Buildings that meet modern building codes should survive most earthquakes without collapsing or life-threatening damage. You may be able to reoccupy a seismically strong building soon after an earthquake.

  • What to consider:
    • Read “How to Recognize a URM.” Know the clues before you search for a home or apartment.
    • Do your searching with “quality of construction” as your first consideration.
    • Be especially cautious of rental homes or apartments built before 1980; you may want to hire a licensed structural engineer or builder trained in earthquake construction to evaluate any older building before you sign the dotted line.
    • Be skeptical if someone tells you a building has been retrofitted; very few older buildings in Utah have been. You may want to ask for proof that your rental meets modern seismic building codes. Any owner or manager should be willing and happy to provide proof when requested. If they can’t or won’t, why not rent somewhere else? (At the present, don’t be surprised if such a request is met with surprise—people rarely ask. But if enough potential renters ask, landlords will soon figure out that it makes good business sense to have documentation ready.) We hope this request will become common practice by every potential renter.
  • I plan to rent an older building
    • You have to make your own decision, but please consider quality of construction and resistance to earthquake shaking in your decision.
    • If you choose to rent an older building, then your challenge is to determine if it is a URM and if it has been properly retrofitted—and it’s not always easy!
    • Does it have a liquefaction risk? Liquefaction is “fluidization” of silty or sandy sediment that can cause buildings to settle, break apart, or tilt, and is usually caused by shaking—learn about it, and consider it in your decisions. Due to the way URM foundations are constructed, liquefaction damage can be much more severe.
    • We know—we’ve heard all the arguments: the location is perfect, the neighborhood is quaint and charming, we love the big trees, it’s close to parks, the apartment has character missing in newer apartments, etc.  Be sure to weigh the safety side of the equation too.
    • Whatever you decide, seriously consider yours and your family’s safety!
  • I plan to rent a newer building
    • Even newer rental houses and apartments should be evaluated for earthquake safety. Earthquake building codes have been strengthened several times and not every building conformed to codes when it was constructed. Modifications may have created unsafe conditions.
    • Does it have other structural concerns such as a “soft story,” non-ductile concrete frame, unreinforced chimney, parapet walls, or weakly attached signs or other fixtures?
    • Is it built directly on a fault (see map and Utah Geological Survey website)?
    • Does it have a liquefaction risk? Liquefaction is “fluidization” of silty or sandy sediment that can cause buildings to settle, break apart, or tilt, and is usually caused by shaking—learn about it, and consider it in your decisions.
    • Is there a danger of rocks rolling into your rental from a nearby slope?
    • Is there a nearby building, wall, chimney, or other tall structure that could fall on your building during an earthquake?
    • Is it on or adjacent to a slope or in or near an area with known landslides? (learn more about landslides in Utah.)
    • Is it below a canyon mouth or in another area that might experience a debris flow?
    • Does it have other earth-related issues such as expansive or collapsible soil or radon gas?
    • Look inside for tall shelves and bookcases, weakly attached chandeliers or mirrors, high vases and ceramic objects, or other objects that may fall.
    • Determine if gas and water lines have flexible connections.
    • Assure that water heaters and other large objects are properly anchored.
  • See more suggestions at BeReady.Utah.gov and other links.