Big Freeze on the Way a Danger to Utility Pipes
Are your rental property water pipes about to freeze? When will your power come back on?
Each and every winter, a Siberian-chilled Artic air swept across most of the continent then extends northeasterly, pulling in more chilling air with more moisture. Weather forecasters call them weather bomb cyclone destined to chillout 70 million Americans and 25 million Canadians.
The cold snap threatens tenant safety, cutting electricity, raising heating bills and lastly, breaking utility pipes (please do review your landlord insurance to see if you’re properly covered).
Many rental units in some parts of the US are not fully winterized, so these arctic cold fronts pose the risk of big financial losses for some landlords. Electric power failure is part of the threat as well.
Houses and Apartments Left Alone
Many Americans will be travelling, stuck in airports during the holidays, thus not home to take care of their rental home.
The sub zero wind can freeze pipes in apartment buildings. If there are gaps in your wall insulation, you’re going to find about it.
“Frozen water pipes represent the biggest potential problem for most homes. A little advance planning will usually prevent frozen pipes,’’ — Jeffrey L. Brewer, VP of Public Affairs for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, from post on the Detroit Free Press.
Blizzards are not a fun event for any property maintenance repair person, but many will be out to service buildings and homes where water pipes are frozen/broken and are leaking. Wastewater and sewer pipes too can freeze thus resulting in city repair crews having to fix the problem.
Chicago city council takes the threat seriously and held a news conference with key tips for tenants to avoid the coming financial losses:
Good Communications with Your Tenants is Wise
Tenants many not realize how expensive water damage during winter can be. It’s a threat to renter’s safety and security too. And fires sometimes result from electric heating sources that are working too hard for too long.
It’ll be an issue for the next two months and it’s wise to make tenants aware of their own circumstances/responsibilities so you won’t have service calls.
Let’s not forget the matter of tenant spills and falls during this and coming winter storms too. Slipping on ice, falling roof ice, and lack of sidewalk snow removal might result in claims on your landlord insurance policy.
Water expands when it freezes and ground breaks during vicious cold spells and can break other utility lines. For your maintenance team, it can be difficult to get to too many rental properties in one day. Can tenants reach you right away and send you pictures of the situation they have? Do they know what to do when pipes freeze? Tell them to put away the propane torch.
A Good Preventive Practice to Follow:
Consider these proactive rental maintenance/prevention tips:
- Check exterior doors and windows for leaks that can let in cold drafts into walls which contributes to frozen pipes
- turn the home temperature up a few degrees to keep warm air flowing into basements and other problem areas
open all basement interior doors to ensure warm air can reach all hidden parts where pipes are
- advise tenants to keep electric heaters away from walls, clothing, blankets and other such materials
- wrap exposed pipes in pipe insulating wrap to help raise water temperature throughout pipes that are not seeing much water flow
- apartment tenants who have water-based radiators should turn them up at night to ensure they don’t freeze up
- make sure there is direct access to the water shutoff valve wherever it is located
- (if your tenants aren’t cooperative) ask them to cooperate and please not fret over higher costs for a few days because damage to the unit could result in higher rent
- flush toilets, use showers and run tap water to keep fresh water coming so it doesn’t sit and freeze in outside ground feed lines
- run both hot and cold water to keep all pipes free and moving
- leave a trickle of water running through any faucets in vulnerable areas of the home to keep slight movement of water through system 24 hours a day
- open up cabinets that housing plumbing on main, upper and basements to allow warm air in (cabinets having pipes against cold exterior walls can freeze)
- use a hair dryer to heat up any suspect frozen pipes
Additionally, wet snow pack will be an issue toward New Year’s Eve as warmer upflow from the southeast follows in the wake of the blizzard.
Your preventative maintenance program on your properties will save you from these infrequent damaging storms. See more on winter rental property maintenance and how your property management software helps provide the process for good maintenance year round.
Check out ManageCasa’s pricing and features now.
* Come join us at NMHC’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas on November 1st. Let’s talk about your property management challenges and where your company is headed.