Frozen pipes in rentals – are they a big deal is the question several landlords were asking this week for Ask Landlord Hank. Remember Hank is not an attorney and he is not offering legal advice. If you have a question for him please fill out the form below.
Dear Landlord Hank:
Are frozen pipes in a rental a big deal?
By Hank Rossi
Doesn’t sound like too big a deal, does it?
Well, it can be a disaster to your rentals and is something you as a landlord want to be on top of all the time.
When the exterior temps get down to around 20 degrees or lower, the water inside your water pipes can freeze. As the water freezes it expands and can rupture the pipe, causing a massive leak when the water thaws and begins flowing again.
This is easier to prevent than to deal with the consequences of neglecting this condition. The process starts with the landlord’s vigilance to weather conditions.
If you live in cold-weather climate zones, talk to your tenants upon move-in about the importance of preventing frozen water pipes and the disaster that preventing this condition can avoid. Once you hear that a drop in temperature is going to occur, then let your tenants know ASAP. If you have an apartment building, put notes on individual doors – as well as access to the building doors – that freeze warnings are going to be in effect and to keep heat on in your units at night, to trickle water from all faucets and to keep doors of cabinets open to water pipes in the kitchen and bathrooms.
If you don’t have multifamily property, then I would call, text and email each tenant the warning notice. You will also want to make sure your lease talks about “Risk of Loss” with something like “All tenants’ personal property shall be a risk of the tenant and landlord shall not be liable for any damage to said personal property of the tenant arising from fire, bursting water pipes, storm, flood (etc.)” and then mention the need for renters’ insurance coverage, which is relatively inexpensive.
Also, it should make clear that tenants will be liable for any damage occurring due to tenant neglect and carelessness by not heeding warnings or not acting to avoid potentially damaging circumstances.
Don’t assume your tenants got the warnings, as some could be sick, out of town, etc. Maintain good communication to head off this normally preventable disaster.
Each week I answer questions from landlords and property managers across the country in my “Dear Landlord Hank” blog in the digital magazine Rental Housing Journal.
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