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Posted over 3 years ago

5 Easy Steps to Protect Your Rental Property From Water Damage

Water damage can be disastrous for rental property owners. It’s the second-most common type of homeowner insurance claim and costs nearly $7,000 on average.

It doesn’t take long for water to spread and cause immediate damage that will linger for years. Even the tiniest of leaks can cause wood to swell and rot, weakening the structural integrity of a home. Beyond that, residual moisture can encourage mold growth. Black mold, as you may already know, can release spores into the air. Inhale or ingest them, and you may find yourself suffering from respiratory problems, chronic fatigue, and persistent headaches.

For these reasons and many more, it’s critical to act swiftly when water strikes. Leaving moisture on drywall, flooring, or insulation for only a few minutes can lead to costly restorations. Just consider what a warped floor might mean to the value of a home — or to potential tenants looking to rent a property.

The Losses Quickly Add Up

Aside from making it difficult to sell or rent a property, water damage is often extremely expensive. Remediation costs alone can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. You’re responsible for water removal, cleanup, ventilation, and possible decontamination — all before the bills come rolling in for repairing or replacing personal property.

That is, of course, if the fault lies with the landlord. Tenants are technically responsible for property damage should they forget to turn the shower off, for example, assuming they can pay for the damages. Property insurance would likely cover structural repairs.

But take care when submitting a claim. Water damage unrelated to weather can affect insurance policies and cause premiums to soar. One study found that a single homeowners insurance claim can cause monthly premium payments to increase by about 9%. What’s more, certain claims can put a policy at risk of cancellation.

As a rental property owner, you need to do everything within your power to prevent water damage before it can wreak havoc on a home. Fortunately, there are certain precautions you can take to protect your property:

1. Locate the water main. Don’t wait until the basement floods to look for a property’s water main. Search it out now, and make sure the valve is easily accessible and functional. While you’re at it, show your tenants, too. Encourage them to shut off the water main when leaving for an extended period to ensure a drip doesn’t lead to severe damage.

2. Check appliances regularly. Routine appliance maintenance doesn’t just prevent potential safety hazards. It’s one of the few ways to identify water leaks before they become a problem (outside of water detection devices). Refer to the appliance’s user manual for further instructions on what to do if you detect a leak.

3. Replace old washing machine hoses. When a washing machine hose looks worn out, replace it. Old hoses can become brittle and easily burst, flooding the home and causing thousands of dollars of damage. Luckily, replacing them is an easy DIY project.

4. Install water detection devices. There are two general types of water detection devices: leak detectors and flow/shutoff valves. Leak detectors are small battery-based devices that are ideal for rental property owners who are on-site periodically or can quickly get to a property. Place them near water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, sinks, toilets, and even basement windows to watch for leaks. As soon as moisture makes contact with the device, you’ll receive an alert.

Meanwhile, water flow/shutoff valves measure the pressure in a housing unit and can detect anything from leaky washing machines to small cracks in pipes behind a wall. The devices notify property managers and residents of these leaks, but they can also automatically close the water valve to prevent small problems from becoming bigger.

5. Monitor water pressure. There’s nothing quite like a shower head with steady pressure, but water pressure that’s too high can damage a home’s hoses and pipes. Pick up a water pressure gauge from the hardware store and attach it to an outside faucet. When you turn the faucet on full blast, it should read between 40 and 70 psi (pounds per square inch). If the gauge reaches 100 psi or higher, you’ll want to install a pressure regulator — which calls for another trip to the hardware store.

Real estate is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. It’s also one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, so treat it as such. Don’t delay until tomorrow what you should do today to protect your rental property — especially when such inexpensive precautionary measures can save you thousands of dollars in repairs. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.