Tenants Negligence Causes Damage

6 Replies

My tenants placed a piece of furniture directly over the only heating vent in a bedroom next to the outside wall of building, and kept door to room closed since it was a storage room for them. During single digit cold winter night, the drain from upstairs apartment running down this wall froze and blew outside pipe joint open. The wall had to be cut open to unfreeze pipe and to fix blown joint. This is costing well over $1,000.00 to remedy. Is the tenant at all liable? Plumber said that wall would not have gotten so cold and pipe would not have froze if the vent had been freely blowing to allow heat to access wall area.

Originally posted by Shelly Irwin:
My tenants placed a piece of furniture directly over the only heating vent in a bedroom next to the outside wall of building, and kept door to room closed since it was a storage room for them. During single digit cold winter night, the drain from upstairs apartment running down this wall froze and blew outside pipe joint open. The wall had to be cut open to unfreeze pipe and to fix blown joint. This is costing well over $1,000.00 to remedy. Is the tenant at all liable? Plumber said that wall would not have gotten so cold and pipe would not have froze if the vent had been freely blowing to allow heat to access wall area.

Shelly: you say the tenants were using the room for storage. Were they ever told that they were required to heat that room? Is it possible to close the vent, and do you know if it was closed? IMO, it's hard to hold them responsible for heating a room if they weren't required to do so in advance.

Shelly, unless this was specified in your lease agreement with them, no. Now you know. Add this to any future lease agreement.

Does the tenant pay for the heat or do you pay it?

Did you inform the tenant that this room needed to remain heated even if they weren't using it?

If the tenant is paying for heat and wasn't using the room I don't think its unreasonable that they would close off that room to try to reduce their heating bill. My grandma blocked off big sections of her house in the winter for the same reason. Not reporting water dripping from the ceiling would be negligence. This doesn't seem like negligence at all.

Is the wall insulated outside the frozen pipe?

$1000 seems like A LOT for opening up a wall and fixing a drain pipe.

Honestly, I think this is your issue.

It's a bad idea to run water supply pipes within exterior walls, just for the reason in this post - pipes can freeze. Have you checked whether those pipes can be relocated to run within an interior wall?

I tried to post NO but that was too short to post by itself.

Something's odd here. @Shelly Irwin says "the drain from upstairs apartment running down this wall froze and blew outside pipe joint open". Drains lines shouldn't have any water in them, except for a trap. Traps are usually located in heated space directly below the fixture. So, those wouldn't freeze. Drain lines should never be horizontal, so water should never pool up in the drain line. Seems like the could be bad drain plumbing to begin with. That resulted in water pooling somewhere and freezing. With proper plumbing, this shouldn't happen, even if the area of the pipe wasn't heated.

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