One of the most expensive and inconvenient truths about bitterly cold winters is resulting water damage due to the heat being turned off in apartments. I have come up with a few things a landlord can do to effectively encourage tenants to turn on the heat and keep it on, and perhaps also bolster the landlord-tenant relationship in the process.
If you’re a homeowner like I am, you understand how difficult it is to ensure that tenants keep their apartments heated during the winter months. The fact is, tenants are most likely trying to save money but may be unaware of the consequences of turning off the heat during cold snaps. Unfortunately, that awareness usually hits when they turn on the heat, the pipes burst, and water floods their apartments.
While insurance typically covers most claims for frozen pipes, it’s a hazardous situation for other tenants in the property, and even if the insurance company covers the repairs, there is a deductible threshold that must be met. While deductibles for two to three unit properties are in the $500 to $1000 range, deductibles for four to 200 units start from $5000 and go much higher. For example, a six unit that sustains water damage due to frozen pipes could sustain damages in the range of $5000 to $20,000. If that property carries a $5,000 deductible, the landlord is responsible for that amount.
Three things homeowners can do to encourage tenants to keep the heat on in their property:
During the winter season people spend more money on heat, and with temperatures dropping below zero for longer periods of time, the cost of heating homes is only rising. Homeowners might help tenants by offering $100 reduction in rent for two or three months. It’s a goodwill gesture that extends an understanding of possibly strained resources, and protects the property owner’s interests at the same time.
Send a reminder to tenants that they are responsible for maintaining the house at a minimum temperature, and if they’re going to be away for any reason to advise the landlord. Landlords could also add a typical clause in the rental agreement that requires tenants to heat their units.
Landlords might run more inspections to ensure thermostats are working properly, and that there are no existing leaks in the heating system. Furthermore, by having frequent inspections (scheduled while tenant is home) the landlord establishes a presence in the property maintenance, which tenants usually appreciate.