The landlord’s guide to 3 maintenance emergencies

George S. Wonica
Published on October 8, 2018

The landlord’s guide to 3 maintenance emergencies

It’s 2 a.m. and the phone is ringing.  You know before picking it up that within ten minutes you’ll be fully dressed and in your car, on the way to take care of an emergency repair at your property. It’s the nature of the beast, right?

No matter how well you maintain your rental property, water heaters leak, air conditioning units fail and pipes burst. But, what constitutes a true emergency may be a matter of differing opinion – yours and your tenant’s.

If it affects the habitability of the property, or if it’s a health or safety issue, rest assured that it’s an emergency.

1. Roof emergencies

If you get a call from a tenant that the roof is leaking, it’s an emergency. The experts at HomeAdvisor.com suggest that most roof leaks stem from some common problems such as missing shingles and faulty step or pipe flashing.

Take the steps to prevent small roof problems from mushrooming into disastrous failures.

Professional roofers offer these maintenance tips:

  • Inspect your rental property’s roof twice a year, in fall and spring. Immediately replace shingles that are buckled, cracked, curled or missing.
  • Then, inspect the area around the chimney, pipes and anywhere else that is attached to and extends from the roof. Look for looseness or wear.
  • When you clean the gutters, look for large amounts of shingle granules that have been blown off or worn away from the shingles. Large amounts in the gutters is a sign that some of the shingles may need to be replaced.
  • Inspect the ceiling in the attic, looking for signs of moisture intrusion.
  • Cut back tree branches that extend to within 6 feet of the roof.

Roof repairs can cost between $150 and $4,000 but the average cost to a homeowner, nationwide is $784. If you, as the landlord, don’t make the repairs, and allow the problems to continue, you can look forward to paying between $2,000 and $12,255 (or an average of $6,637) to replace the roof when it’s no longer functional.

2. Plumbing emergencies

A leaking toilet can waste up to 90,000 gallons of water in just one month and can add $500 to a single water bill. Still think a minor toilet leak isn’t an emergency?

Ok, so maybe it isn’t the drag-you-out-of-bed-at-a-ridiculous-hour type of emergency, but since even minor leaks affect your bottom line, they require prompt attention.

What does constitute a plumbing emergency?

  • Broken pipe
  • Flooded room
  • Overflowing toilet
  • Sewage leak

In fact, anything that causes immediate water damage should be considered an emergency. After all, the average insurance claim for the water damage caused by a burst pipe, for instance, is about $5,000, according to House Logic.

How to prevent plumbing emergencies

Again, routine inspection and maintenance goes a long way in the prevention of plumbing emergencies. Here are a few ways to prevent some of the more common ones:

  • Insulate outside taps and pipes (drain pipes too) and pipes in unheated areas of the property (lofts, garages, basements) to prevent burst pipes.
  • Remind tenants to allow at least one faucet to drip during periods of extreme freeze and to never pour grease or coffee grinds down the drain.
  • Inspect the toilets at least once a year for worn toilet flappers, wax rings and bolts.
  • Check for signs of wear in the screens over tub and shower drains.
  • Install a pressure reducer if the water pressure on the property is above 85 psi. High water pressure puts stress on pipes and valves.
  • Install a water softener in regions with hard water. Mineral deposit buildup is corrosive and can shorten the life of the plumbing system.

3. Electrical emergencies

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that in 2011, 47,700 home fires were caused by electrical failure or malfunction. Not only did these fires result in 418 deaths, but 1,570 injuries and property damage in excess of $1 billion, or about $13,000 per incident.

So, what constitutes an electrical emergency? Sparking outlets or an outlet that is hot to the touch, and flickering lights may sound minor but they are also symptoms of a larger, more dangerous problem.

Prevent electrical emergencies

  • Hire a certified electrician to check the circuits and wiring on the property. The cost of an inspection will vary, depending on region, but as long as the electrician’s bill isn’t as high as replacing the home after a fire, it’s money well spent, don’t you think?
  • Inspect the electrical system on your property at least once a year. Buy an outlet tester (as little as $4.99 online) and use it to determine if the electrical outlets in the home are wired properly and grounded.
  • As you walk through the property, inspect the light switches and electrical outlets for charring or discoloration. While the problem may be minor, have an electrician check for faulty wiring in the circuit.

When an emergency does occur, it pays to have established relationships with reliable vendors. Cultivate these relationships so that common maintenance emergencies are handled smoothly, safely and professionally.

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The landlord’s guide to 3 maintenance emergencies
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