Water is a necessary element to support life and when it concerns rental property, water usage must be available to tenants. Water can be a force in itself, such as from a serious flood or hurricane. Left unchecked in a rental property, water can cause anything from minimal to major havoc and damage.
Water problems can affect just about every area of the property, inside and out.
- Kitchens have many potential areas for water problems. Dishwashers, refrigerators, and icemakers - all can have poor hose hook ups or develop a leak. Sinks and garbage disposals can back up or overflow due to poor condition of the plumbing. Even a slow drip over time can cause a lot of damage to cabinets and flooring.
- There are utility rooms, laundry areas and garages, with water connections. Washing machines can overflow or have problems with hoses or improper hook ups. Water heaters can start leaking.
- Many problems can happen in a bathroom. Most new homes today have two, three, or more bathrooms. Therefore, a property can have a variety of toilets, sinks, showers, and bathtubs. Even if there is only one bathroom, it is critical that plumbing leaks be fixed quickly to avoid more damage. Moisture can accrue quickly in these areas, causing mold.
- Water can affect the exterior of a residence. You can have faulty drains that can back up and leak into the residence. Irrigation systems can cause standing water, which can lead to pest problems.
- Roofs and gutters can leak. Periodic checks are necessary for roofs to prolong life. Backed up gutters occur when leaves or debris fall and should be cleaned out as soon as possible.
- It is possible to have structural plumbing problems. Plumbing in the ceiling or under the floor can become faulty or pipes can burst during certain weather conditions, such as freezing.
Water can cause dangerous liability issues. If a tenant is without water for an unreasonable time, you are dealing with a habitability issue, unless it caused by an act of nature, such as a hurricane or flood.
- The law considers it a retaliatory act to contact the water company to turn off service because you want the tenant to vacate.
- Shutting off the water to prevent flooding and to facilitate a repair is fine unless you do not complete the work in a reasonable time.
- Water can lead to toxic mold, one of the most serious issues in rental property today – the settlements for mold have been in the millions.
Do not despair; there are preventative measures to avoid most problems. As your property management company, we know there are many steps we take to avoid serious issues caused by water, such as the following.
- Educate tenants about reporting maintenance as soon as possible – this can help keep down costs by taking preventative action.
- Keep up with maintenance – fixing a small leak or clogged gutter can reduce costly repairs and help keep tenants happy.
- Immediately address any mold issue. Use qualified contractors to determine if it is toxic mold and what steps to take to correct the problem.
- Use qualified vendors for any repair, large or small.
- Contact owners as soon as possible with the facts so they can make informed decisions on major repairs.
It is necessary to take a proactive approach toward problems caused by water. In addition, it is equally important that property owners keep up with their insurance coverage. Just do not ignore water problems if they occur.