Insulating water lines - pass cost on to tenant?

12 Replies

I currently owner occupy a 2 unit.  With winter being here, I plan to insulate the water lines. The question is do I go ahead and insulate the tenants lines on "my" dime, or ask would they want their lines done and pass the cost on to them?

That's an owner responsibility.

If you own the property it's your responsibility.

Wonder what your thinking is on this? If you don't insulate the pipes for the tenant unit and there is a break and/or damage, it's not like you can charge the tenant for repairs.  You're not doing the tenants a favor by insulating pipes.  You're pro-actively protecting/preserving your own property.

It is my understanding that all tenants are required to do is whatever is customary to avoid frozen pipes.   If they do that -- like keep heat at decent range and open cabinet door to sinks to prevent freezing on cold nights or whatever, then the pipes freeze anyway, you are likely the one paying for the repairs, not them.  I'd make sure my pipes were insulated to avoid issues in the first place.  I also make sure outside spigots are turned off and drained.  And I have a clause in my lease that states tenant agrees to keep heat on at no less than 58 degrees in cold weather to avoid the idiots who go on vacation in winter and turn the heat off.  That happened to a friend of ours long ago, and, while he did get a large judgment against the tenant after the pipes froze, he never collected anything.  So I'm kind of annoying in stressing the importance of heat in the winter to my tenants during the lease signing.    

Originally posted by @Lynn M. :

It is my understanding that all tenants are required to do is whatever is customary to avoid frozen pipes.   If they do that -- like keep heat at decent range and open cabinet door to sinks to prevent freezing on cold nights or whatever, then the pipes freeze anyway, you are likely the one paying for the repairs, not them.  I'd make sure my pipes were insulated to avoid issues in the first place.  I also make sure outside spigots are turned off and drained.  And I have a clause in my lease that states tenant agrees to keep heat on at no less than 58 degrees in cold weather to avoid the idiots who go on vacation in winter and turn the heat off.  That happened to a friend of ours long ago, and, while he did get a large judgment against the tenant after the pipes froze, he never collected anything.  So I'm kind of annoying in stressing the importance of heat in the winter to my tenants during the lease signing.    

This happened to an investor friend of mine too.  Tenant went away for two weeks in a N. Dakota freeze.  I really admire all the LLs on BP in places with freezing weather.  First you have to live with the weather.  Secondly, you have worry about your heating systems and pipes that might fail.  And the well being of your tenants during such weather.  Nobody dies of exposure in So. Cal.  

We make sure all the pipes are insulated and the places with well houses have heat lamps on thermostats.  It is the tenant's responsibility to make sure the heat lamps are working and to let us know if not.  If we have frozen pipes in the well house and go out to fix them and the heat lamp is unplugged, the repair is now on the tenant's bill.

Originally posted by Kristine Marie Poe:

Wonder what your thinking is on this? If you don't insulate the pipes for the tenant unit and there is a break and/or damage, it's not like you can charge the tenant for repairs.  You're not doing the tenants a favor by insulating pipes.  You're pro-actively protecting/preserving your own property.

What I was thinking is... I have never in all my 40+ years living in IL  had  insulated pipes in any home I lived in, the basement stays fairly warm, I live in the home and am constantly in the basement, the insulating was more of a cost savings (keep the water warm(er) more so than a "I'm worried the pipes will freeze".  And yes, I figured, I would be doing the tenants a favor if there was even a slight decrease in their gas bill because again of the above-mentioned line of thinking.

@Arthur Banks  I would think you could ask them.  They probably will respond with no way.  But, instead of giving them gift cards for holidays where they think wow my landlord is making too much money - they think wow my landlord has expenses - maybe we need to pay him.  Just keep in mind that you will probably still want to insulate whether they pay anything or not - so don't lose face asking and them saying no.

I had a pipe burst last year - stunk to be me - paying a plumber is like paying a dentist - painful but has to be done.  Replaced some lines with PEX, then put in a water softener, then a water heater went on me.  DOH!  anyone have directions to FLORIDA!?

Insulate the pipes in both units and market it as an "added value".... something the tenant benefits from but doesn't pay extra for.  This will put a deposit in your "I'm a good landlord" bank account and strengthen your landlord-tenant relationship.  It will also set your units apart from others on the rental market next time you have a vacancy.

We have an old Victorian duplex with a rubble foundation and a rather odd sill configuration (2 4x6 sill plates (the rubble wall is 14" thick).   We keep chipping away at insulating the basement and crawl spaces, but there is one corner that continues to be very draughty.   

We have both insulated the plumbing and placed a heat wrap on the supply lines.  Additionally, we have installed thermostats on the supply piping in the most vulnerable section of the basement which automatically turn-on the heat wrap if the temperature of the pipe drops below 1-2C.

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If they are easy to get to , its a cheap and fast project .  If I were a tenant and the landlord wanted to charge me to insulate the pipes , I would tell him I rented the house like this , if it were necessary you should have done it prior to me  moving in. 

Without a doubt insulate on your dime, a tenant is a person who has zero vested interest in weather or not your pipes freeze (unless their belongings get ruined from water).  I am a worrier, so every winter I am constantly scared of pipes freezing then bursting (in houses).  I heat tape the hell out of my mh pipes, then wrap and tape insulation around that.  Do whatever it takes to keep that water flowing INSIDE those pipes.  The potential repair cost for a pipe bursting will most definetly outweigh the cost of insulating pipes.  Plus if a pipe does burst, whos to say anyone will be home to notice, OR know where to shut the water off at??  Its a situation that I hate thinking about.  Last year I sent out a mass text to all tenants to drip faucets, open cabinets under sinks, and keep heat at 60+, I gave a rent credit incentive and last year everything went smoothly.   Hopefully this year will pan out the same.  Insulate the pipes.

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