How did this weather affect your properties?

34 Replies

How did this weather affect your properties? Or why does anyone like winter?

Besides all the snow that we are getting this year (here in Philly we had 5 snow storms and super low temperatures, 25-year low). 

I got my first maintenance request on January 3rd. Broken sewage pipe in the basement. Flooded with …you know what.

January 5th my second maintenance request came in for “no hot water in the bathroom sink”. Frozen pipe in the crawl space in the basement.

January 7th two more: frozen pipe and as a result broken washing machine valve leaking all over the laundry room. Which is above another crawl space. In addition, different building tenant reported “no water in the kitchen sink”. Same issue.

So 4 brakes in one week. Not easy to find a plumber willing to work in this temperatures and conditions.

Moral of the story: always have reserve account for this type of expense AND make sure that the pipes in your crawl space are insulates as well as the walls and floors to avoid similar brakes.

My friends ask: aren’t you sick of all your tenant’s issues and “crap” you have to deal with? And the answer is no. It is part of the business that I have to deal with.

Anyone have other stories to add?

I had two houses with frozen pipes - one of them burst in the laundry which thankfully was semi-exterior so didn’t cause any house damage. The other one was just frozen water heater pipes which I fixed with a heat gun (two times on two different days!). Down here they installed the water heater outside and the pipes are uninsulated and on the *exterior* of the house.

Thankfully my tenant at the house where the pipes burst is a contractor and fixed it himself for free (bless him!) so no plumber bill there. But my third house texted the other day complaining of a gas smell in the house (to which I replied call the gas company!!!) Turns out when we were doing renovations my contractor cut off the chimney pipe for the water heater exhaust (water heater is in large crawlspace and exhaust is piped out to side of house). He replaced it with a shorter pipe and the exhaust was wafting up to the window (which is brand new and not sealed properly grrr) and coming in the house. So I had them turn off the water heater for the night and run both taps and then the HVAC guy came out and reinstalled the pipe correctly - all the way to the roof above the windows so that the exhaust does not come near points of entry for the house. I haven’t gotten a bill yet but I’m sure it won’t be nothing.

Now that tenant’s father wants me to “get the water heater serviced” and I’m not sure what to do. I don’t think it needs it, it’s newish and we identified the issue. But if something were to go wrong down the road I would hate to be the landlord who refused to service the water heater if that ultimately caused an issue.

So...yeah. 3 out of 4 houses with issues despite me being proactive and telling tenants to run their water at night. The houses just aren’t made for this cold!

Pipes froze in my personal residence.... A newly flipped home with all new pex plumbing. Except the main line coming into the house is galvanized up to the meter and then pex after that. So I thawed it out with wife's hair dryer... and then the water started spraying. They galvanized pipe sprung a leak due to the freeze (and age). The leak is manageable (dripping into a bucket with a sump pump feeding a hose to the drain) for now. I opened up a bunch of the walls in the finished basement to insulate better. Plumbers have come over to fix the leak but they can't shut off the water because the leak is before the main valve and the curb trap has shifted so they can't shut it off from the street. So now we're waiting for warmer weather so they can dig up the curb trap and replace the galvanized main with copper.

Frozen water supply pipes in the kitchen at one rental and also a drain blockage at the same rental where the blockage was determined to be frozen.

And today had an inspection on a flip with guess what - frozen water supply pipes in the upstairs bathroom.

Lucky for me I can solve the frozen supply pipes at both houses using a hot water recirculation system, where when the water temperature in the pipes gets too low a valve opens to mix some of the water from the hot pipe into the cold line; this keeps hot water in the hot pipe much hotter (no longer need to run the water for a long while to heat it up), and sends warm water into the cold pipe so that the nearly frozen water flows back to the water heater to be reheated.

@Steve Babiak ,

What is that recirculation system and is it expensive to install? Sounds like a good solution for cold weather

There are several different types; there is one from Canada that the unit costs around $400, installs under the sink so you need electric GFCI receptacle there (could get that from load side of GFCI that is elsewhere) - so installation more depends on getting electricity there. Then there are the units from Home Depot and Lowes that cost around $200 and install the pump at the hot water heater (still need a GFCI there but probably easier to put there), and the mixer gets installed at the fixture (sink or bathtub). So depends on how the place is set up; in the rental I will likely use the system from Canada in both units; in the flip I will be getting the other kind because it has one of those PEX manifolds so multiple water pipes off of one water heater - so I buy just one pump for the water heater and a mixer for each separate fixture. For that kind, the package from the big box stores includes one mixer valve, so you buy more mixers separately to save bucks.

At my local Home Depot, there is a Watts brand in the hot water heater aisle, so you could look there. Be careful of open box on these - I looked at one at my Home Depot and the washer for the fitting that attaches to the water heater was crushed - I bet that would leak ;)

@Yuriy Skripnichenko ,

Good attitude, and I agree-- it's just normal business!   Telling someone the pipes are frozen, or the HVAC heater isn't working is normal maintenance.   If the shoes were reversed, I'd be calling too.. so it's definitely not "crap" it's what you get paid for!

We got 4 calls of HVAC heaters not working... 2 of them were because it was only heating to 65, when it was 0-10 degrees outside, normal-- had to explain it to the tenants.. and 1 tenant had a legit heating element that went out, and after we fixed it, she said it wasn't working.. until this morning when the weather heated up and she said it got too hot!   We also had to thaw a hot water heater because of a frozen pipe.. just gotta roll with it!

We had had a week of temperatures in the -20C (highs) to -30C (lows) and had pipes freeze outside of conditioned spaces at three buildings.   

At one building, where we had new water and sewer services installed last summer,  the lines froze, (3 - 6') outside the foundation, three times (the rock fill must be far more porous than I imagined).   I tunnelled out under the foundation as far as my arm would take me and installed 3' of heat tape on the service line ... so far, no freezing since (of course, it has warmed to a balmy -10 to -5C this week).

Great topic. A cat broke a vent cover to escape the weather. As a result, a pipe froze in crawl space which stopped water supply lines to the unit.

I think I may have been lucky during this long cold snap in the Baltimore area. I have not received any calls/emails from the PM and they contact me if there is any one repair over $200. *knock on wood*

At my personal home, we tend to have trouble with our kitchen sink water lines. They are on an exterior wall and not the best insulation (1970s house), so when we have several below-freezing days and the faucet isn't used, it kinda starts to freeze up. Never any damage, luckily. We should probably get on insulating that more.

I have also been lucky Nicole with the pipes in my properties.  Plumbers and HVAC technicians are at a shortage currently.  Make sure you reward your contractors so you always get put on top of the list for repairs!

Dave

Had a heat valve from the boiler stick at my home while I was away. Temperature in the lower level bathroom dropped. toilet fill and water froze, hmm you think my twenty something noticed.? It was 37 at the thermostat in that zone and the bathroom much colder. So far nothing frozen elsewhere. I have I think two stuck vehicles interfering a bit with plowing.
I've had a frozen washer drain and lines coming into the same building froze along with the water meter. I wasn't prepared like I should have been. I unthawed the frozen supply lines and heat taped them all. It was -15 the next day and they didn't freeze. I have 6 properties and only had trouble with one of them.

Get a call late last night that the upstairs unit has a pipe that's gushing water.. also flooded the unit directly under.. drive 30 mins,  shut the water off.. talk to the tenant to find out they weren't properly heating the unit, and they knew that the pipe was frozen for several days. Never contacted us,  and came back to find it busted..

I have a pretty good number of houses here in Illinois and the weather was 10 degrees or less for a good week or two here.

It was a bad run but could have been much worse. 

4 hvac calls in 3 days. 3 were simple $65 service calls. One required a new furnace. The new furnace was actually in a house that I was turning over and just finished the rehab. It was below zero that week and when they got the furnace installed and going, there were a couple of water leaks as some pipes had given out.

So that was a costly hit but its far less stressful to deal with when it happens in a vacant house as opposed to one with the tenant in it. Luckily my hvac guy is great.

Had two more hvac calls since that ran about $400 apiece. And then a plumbing call on a house being rehabbed that is going to require me to replace the water heater (even though it was fairly new).  But on most houses I buy, I assume the water heater is toast given its been sitting for a year or more.

Also had a water pipe leak in the utility room in a house because not much heat in the utility room (unfinished space just below grade). 

Even though that sounds bad, my monthly budget for repairs is 10k for all my houses and I actually came in well under that number for the month. 

Considering the temperature for the month, I was actually shocked it wasn't much worse.

Still, its always tough when a tenant says they have no heat and its zero degrees out. Gotta hope your hvac guy can get to it that day or else the tenants and the house are going to freeze.

Originally posted by @Steve Babiak :

@Roy N. - do you use the ReadyTemp product at any of your properties? http://readytemp.com/prevent-frozen-water-pipes/pr...

Steve:

I've never used their products ... I have built my own circulating system in the past (at a camp).   Frozen pipes are generally a non-issue at our properties (at least the ones we've retrofitted) as we move plumbing to interior walls and everything is well insulated.  

In this instance, where the service line from the City was frozen external to the building (despite being under 6-7 feet of beach rock, crushed rock and quarter minus), I'm not sure what would have prevented the freeze - other than re-excavating and installing a circuit to-from the City's demarcation.   

I'm not fully convinced my heat tape is going to solve the problem when the temperatures drop again - we left a faucet running at a pretty steady trickle (which is not a sustainable solution) since we last thawed the line (5-6 hours with a heat gun) and added the heat tape.

Originally posted by @Yuriy Skripnichenko :

How did this weather affect your properties? Or why does anyone like winter?

Besides all the snow that we are getting this year (here in Philly we had 5 snow storms and super low temperatures, 25-year low). 

I got my first maintenance request on January 3rd. Broken sewage pipe in the basement. Flooded with …you know what.

January 5th my second maintenance request came in for “no hot water in the bathroom sink”. Frozen pipe in the crawl space in the basement.

January 7th two more: frozen pipe and as a result broken washing machine valve leaking all over the laundry room. Which is above another crawl space. In addition, different building tenant reported “no water in the kitchen sink”. Same issue.

So 4 brakes in one week. Not easy to find a plumber willing to work in this temperatures and conditions.

Moral of the story: always have reserve account for this type of expense AND make sure that the pipes in your crawl space are insulates as well as the walls and floors to avoid similar brakes.

My friends ask: aren’t you sick of all your tenant’s issues and “crap” you have to deal with? And the answer is no. It is part of the business that I have to deal with.

Anyone have other stories to add?

 Its part of the business - it sucks getting plumbers to commit in tough weather. Have a new multifamily building 40 units just acquired, just ramping up to gut and renovate the whole thing and turn over all the existing tenants, have blow outs daily this past storm, (4) days in a row  - lucky for me, I have a large team in place to be able to quickly address and mitigate the ossue, but I remeber the days when we were jsut scaling and getting moving and these problems seem detreimental, now its regauylr business, it all has a solution, not always cheap, bnut you grow from it, you learn from it and you build an empire with the knowledge. 

@Yuriy Skripnichenko

Thanks for posting, it's nice to share the bad as well.. It was a pretty rough 2 weeks here.

It started the day after christmas.. I had a forced air furnace go out in the middle of the night tenant called at 5 am it was 50 in their apartment. I got my hvac guy there by 10 am.. They were pretty cool and rolled with it..

The next day I got a call at 11:30 pm. Forced air furnace went.. Temp in the house was about 50 at the time. With -25 windchill temp was dropping rapidly. The house had back up electric baseboard heat and a couple of electric space heaters in the basement... Tenant refused to use the baseboard and space heaters.. They demanded immediate contractor repair.. I said I made the call they would be out asap.. Not good enough.. Tenant went to parents and implied I should get them a hotel.. Contractor was there within 5 hrs. Had it repaired in 7 hrs.  This resulted in a broken pipe. Also repaired that day.  Same tenant went out for new years claimed they left heat up and water dripping ,gone all day.. I got an over dramatic call of a frozen pipe... So off I go.. Three hours later I had it thawed. I have owned this house for 20 years never froze up once... Tenant suggested I need to reimburse them for this inconvenience..... As calmly as possible I explained this weather is an act of god..

New years eve I get a call from a tenant who had called earlier in the week complaining about only getting 68 when thermostat was set at 80. This time no heat or hot water.. Brand new system in this building. About 8k for the boiler and water tank.. I get there and the whole town is lit up like a parade going through it.. As it turns out, it was so cold a gas line froze and blew up. The gas company had to have at least 50 trucks in town. The whole town had been out of gas for 8 hrs.. They were about 15 minutes away and I explained the situation.. One tenant said "there must be something else yopu can do" I handed her the space heater and said "let me go get my magic wand"

Last but not least I got a pretty decent tenant call and say her apartment won't get over 60... Not alarming but she is next to the boiler room and is usually to hot.. As it turns out she turned her thermastat all the way down and was maintaining that temp from the boiler room and adjacent apartments..I go to try to force her line open by opening the zone valve..Nothing.. I try to bleed line... Nothing.. It is froze. I call hvac contractor.. There response is..."you are f#@%ed" Lines are buried in the concrete along exterior brick wall.. I got space heaters running on the lines and my dad is pacing back and forth with a propane torch heating the block.. After about an hour we got it thawed.. 

Like I said it was a rough couple of weeks.. I don't have a heating system over 10 yrs old and have spent about 25k the last 3 years on boilers. 

Meanwhile my own water lines were froze for 4 days going to my kitchen sink... They live better than I do lol!

For the past couple of weeks, NJ had the coldest temperature. Frozen pipes were a major maintenance repair. 

Not a single problem related to the cold. One turnover, the electric coils in the heat pump set up wasn't working, but that wasn't because of the cold, it was just an inconvenient time. Had to run a space heater overnight until my HVAC guy got there. Turned out a wire came loose from the control panel. Even so, the heat pump part still kept it in the high 50s in the house and nothing even thought of freezing.

Got lucky so far. Nothing at any of them.

Furnace stopped working, got repaired, stopped working about 3 hours later, hvac guy came out again, so far so good since then. Glad to get someone out so we didn't have to deal with busted pipes, the water main and furnace in this house are in the garage

We have a condo in Ocean City, MD, a 3 story condo building, 24 units throughout. The pipes froze in the crawl space. Main was shut off at street upon discovery. Plumbers on site within a couple of days. Part of remedy was to add localized shutoffs and insulate both the new and the surviving pipes. HOA picks up the tab on this one, however, still waiting to see final repair bill.

We had a very cold snap here in CT followed by a foot of snow for the last 2-3 weeks. Thankfully on the properties we own we didn't have any issues due to the weather. We were definitely monitoring things daily especially since we had a 3-family flip of ours close on Monday. No issues though. We were lucky.

My business partner runs a local property management company, about 100 units total, and he had some freezing pipe related issues in some of the rentals he manages among other weather related problems. Like others have stated, this is just a cost of doing business in these areas.

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