I wanted to offer a quick reference guide for tenants and real estate investors of what to do to prepare for and deal with cold-weather problems. Over the last week, we have out of the ordinary cold temperatures causing 3 residents to have no water in some or all of their appliances and one major furnace failure. The following is a checklist or step by step plan with resources for the Edmonton area.
If extremely cold weather conditions are forecast an ounce of preparation can save a ton of turmoil. Here are some quick action steps you can take to avoid having no heat, or no water.
Check furnace exhaust pipes to ensure they are not blocked by frost or ice buildup
Ensure that garden hoses have been removed and taps are turned off.
Replace your furnace filter.
Replace thermostat batteries? There are some thermostats that require batteries. If the batteries die it can fail to call for heat from the furnace. The house will become cold and a waterline could freeze and burst.
If you're leaving for a short vacation. Do Not Turn the thermostat down. The nickels you save can cost you thousands.
In any season it isn't a good idea to dispose of fats, oil, grease or other objects in your sinks or toilets. Clogged drains are even more frustrating in winter. Store it Don't Pour it
Keep the water flowing.
frequently drawing water from the tap may prevent freezing
Setting the cold and hot taps to drip just a little can keep the water moving so it doesn't freeze
Cabinets on exterior walls can hold air stagnant and cause frozen pipes. Opening cabinet doors and good airflow can ensure water lines don't freeze
Piles of clothes, boxes, and furniture that touch exterior walls containing water lines limit the warm airflow and bring the dew point further into the room. This can help pipes to freeze and more commonly causes frost damage and surface mold.
Staying Safe and Emergency preparedness
Create a 72-hour emergency supply kit.
The general rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person per day,
Nonperishable food items
Warm clothing and blankets
If you know you might be without water, fill the bathtubs. It's easy to fill your toilet tank with a pail so you can keep flushing excrement down the drain. Going to the swimming pool for a shower isn't convenient, but not being able to flush is another level of gross.
Have proper tenant insurance.
Here is a link to the government of Canada website for more great info. www.getprepared.gc.ca
What to do if there is no water at any appliance in the house?
A broken water line in the neighborhood can be the cause of a water outage. You can check the Edmonton Epcor website https://www.epcor.com/outages/water-outages/Pages/current-water-outages-alert.aspx
To report any water outages or other water trouble in Edmonton to (780) 412-4500
If there is no water outage or it's just a few appliances what do I do?
When water freezes it swells and can burst the water lines causing a flood. The ice in the line will not only cause the hole in the pipe it will block it until the temperature rises and then the flooding will start. If you have a frozen water line there is a chance that it will cause flood damage but the right actions can save you from enduring it.
Here are the diagnosis steps you need to know.
Set the cold and hot taps to drip so water keeps moving. In the case of a frozen blockage in hopes of the water moving.
Water under pressure takes longer to freeze but turning off the main water supply or appliance shut-offs while your out of your house will protect against flooding in your absence.
Turn the thermostat heat up to the highest bearable temperature.
Open cabinet doors where water lines are encased.
Are you getting hot water but not cold?
Trace the water lines looking for areas where they could be getting a draft.
If your an AvailRentals.com resident Text 780-862-5762 "emergency no water"
I think I found the frozen pipe.
Frozen lines on the baseboard heaters commonly found in apartments can cause the room temperature to drastically drop. The baseboard heaters are installed very close to the floor and because they are under sliding doors and windows. It doesn't take much to freeze them. Most often the copper water line will freeze and expand the pipe until it cracks.
Before thawing the pipe turn off the supply valves. With valves on as soon as the ice is removed high-pressure water can flood your apartment. Baseboard heater shut-offs are located at each end of the heat run just inside the walls shared with other apartments.
At this point, you should contact your property manager. You could be held liable if you modify the property without authorization. You might think you're skilled enough to help but it is the owner's decision and they might not want to be your DIY guinea pig and find out the hard way that you aren't the handyman or painter you thought you were. This dispute is common when people try to paint wall patches and dents in doors with mismatched paint and poor patching.
Drafting windows and the spaces between floor joists are a common source of cold that freezes water lines.
Tip for Canadian house flippers project managers and contractors. Heating guys, plumbers, and electricians commonly remove insulation to install products in and through cold walls and don't replace the insulation and vapor barrier. Your job as the construction supervisor is to ensure that it gets insulated and sealed with less than 1% draft.
Tub and shower valves should never be mounted on an exterior wall. Rim joists with no poly and Water lines installed on the cold side of the vapor barrier is a sign of poor workmanship and a negligent construction supervisor.
The power is out and it's -30 what do I do?
Is the power outage limited to your home? If your neighbors' power is still on, check your own circuit breaker panel or fuse box.
If the neighborhood is out you need to decide if this is temporary. Or is the power going to be out for more than 8 hours? You can find a list of outrages online at https://www.epcor.com/outages/power-outages/Pages/current-power-outages.aspx
If your power outage isn't listed, please report it 24/7 by calling (780) 412-4500.
Most often a power outage is a short term problem easily overcome with a BBQ dinner under candlelight. Just pull out your emergency kit, snuggle up and enjoy. You should unplug as many electronics as possible to avoid surge damage. (Note to self, put 40 Creek Whiskey in the emergency kit)
If it's going to be more than 8 hours you need to prepare to evacuate.
Unplug as many electronics as possible. Turn off as many breakers as you can to prevent Serge damage when the power comes back on. Leave the fridge, freezer, and furnace breaker on. Ensure the sump pump has power.
Turn off the water main and drain water from the system; open all taps, flush several times, open the drain valve in the basement, and drain the hot water tank into the floor drain. If you have a gas heater, turn out the pilot light.
Unhook the washing machine hoses and drain.
Add a small amount of antifreeze to water left in toilet bowls and sink/tub traps.
Clear valuables off the basement floor.
Your renter's insurance may set you up in a hotel.
Here is a discount link for renters insurance http://secure.nuerainsurance.ca/renters/?prefilllandlordcode=<AVAIL
Is My Landlord Responsible for Fixing the Frozen Water Line?
The landlord-tenant act requires that landlords provide their tenants with housing in a habitable condition, which means a weatherproof dwelling and working plumbing. The tenant has an obligation to use the rented space and all its facilities in a reasonable manner, and to neither, deliberately or negligently damage the property.
Reasonable use includes residents taking precautions against burst pipes, such as letting the sink and bathtub faucets drip during extreme cold. It also includes that the thermostat has working batteries and the temperature is maintained above 20 degrees Celsius to help prevent damage from frozen pipes.
So what happens when, in the bitter cold, the pipes freeze and possibly even burst? Who's responsible?
Ultimately, if a tenant is reasonably taking care of the apartment but the pipes still end up freezing or bursting, it's the landlord who is on the hook for repairing damage to the property. That does not include, however, damage to renters' personal property within the premises. To protect your stuff from flood damage here is an insurance discount code http://secure.nuerainsurance.ca/renters/?prefilllandlordcode=<AVAIL
We want to know you have options should you be displaced. When you have insurance and you can't enter your home your insurance can help you find accommodations, food, and clothes.
Without insurance, an event like the Fort McMurray fires a condemned condo or just the upstairs fridge water line flooding your basement suite can leave you and your family in a very bad spot. Your property manager isn't responsible for paying for expenses as a result of incidents like this. The owner is suffering a loss just like you and expecting them to pay for your inconvenience in addition to their own isn't reasonable. Many people have had a bad experience with a landlord in the past. But exploiting an incident and acting like this is your big chance to stick it to them is just wrong.. Many owners labor and toil for years and years to save a down payment to make rental housing available. Others didn't want to be a landlord but couldn't sell the house and had to move. It's not uncommon that the rent collected doesn't cover the expenses so they literally pay hundreds of dollars each month so someone can live in their house.
It is your responsibility to maintain renters' insurance as outlined in the lease agreement and have a family plan for you and your pets.
Do I still pay rent for the time I was evacuated and the landlord had to repair the suite?
Keep in mind if your landlord could have foreseen this they would have avoided the situation too. Talk to your landlord and seek a mutually beneficial agreement. Your insurance will cover your expenses and the incident doesn't excuse you from the contracts you agreed to. If you are not able to come to an agreement about the rent, you can apply to the provincial court or the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service for a temporary reduction in your rent.
If you are not sure of your rights please call Service Alberta's Consumer Contact Centre at 1-877-427-4088 (toll-free).
Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS) Phone: 780-644-3000 Toll-free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta) Fax: 780-644-2266 Email: email@example.com
My House is Flooded!?
Your personal safety is far more important than stopping property destruction. That is what insurance is for. Do not enter a flooded basement unless you are sure the power is disconnected.
If it is safe, turn off the main breaker. turn off the main water supply., stop the flooding and remove the water.
Cleaning up after a broken water line is a lot of work but is safe for you to deal with. You can push the water into a floor drain. If one isn't available you can take the toilet off and push the water there just don't leave it open or methane can rise out making it stinky and you can die from methane poisoning.
Move all goods to a none affected area of possible for cleaning later on.
Water pumps and shop vacumes are very effective. If the carpet is old and damaged or starts to fall apart when you vacuum the water out of it, cutting the carpet and underlay up into 2' x 6' pieces rolling it up to haul out of the house is a good way to get rid of a lot of moisture. This is a race against the water soaking and wicking into porous materials such as drywall and wood. Mobilizing labor and moving quickly can save a lot of damage from happening.
Flood water and water that comes up from drains pr through a window or door is a nasty brew that contains chemical toxins, sewage, mud, and bacteria. You should wait for insurance restoration professionals to deal with it. I have heard good things about www.canadarestorationservices.com And www.pauldavis.ca Unfortunately people's insurance companies keep sending me the other guys to deal with.
AvailRentals com has a collection of carpet dryer fans and dehumidifiers to limit the damage caused by a water leak. If it isn't dealt with fast, water will wick up the walls and into porous materials causing them to swell and mold can start growing. Residents, please text "emergency flooding" if you have a flood in progress and we will jump into action.
Of course, homeowners insurance doesn't cover tenant goods or costs as a result of the flood. You need tenant insurance for that. If the incident is caused by your negligence say from leaving a window open and having rainwater damage a hardwood floor or overflowing tub your renter's insurance covers that or it could be a financially traumatic oversight for you. Here is a discount code for you.
Both owners and tenants can apply for Disaster Recovery from their municipality https://www.alberta.ca/disaster-recovery-programs.aspx
The Avail Advantage
Included in our property management services at AvailRentals.com is access to a thermal imaging camera for our technicians. We use our detective skills to identify the frozen or leaking pipe and to stop the cold from coming in.
We start by using nondestructive methods using fans, space heaters, a blow dryer or heat gun and heat tape to warm the pipe. (Heat tape is like an extension cord that runs hot)
We give the nondestructive efforts a chance to work while the tenant is at work or overnight. But when your tenant can't use the toilet, have a shower or clean the dishes. Hoping and praying for a few days isn't an option.
There are 2 methods to restore water service.
Thermal imaging camera and destructive inspection.
There are 2 kinds of specialized equipment. One uses an electrical current to warm copper pipes and free the ice. Most homes have very little copper pipe and PEX plastic lines instead.
The other injects steam into drains and water lines. Both can fix the problem with minimal destruction but don't address the cause. The freeze can happen the next time temperatures fall and you might not be lucky enough to avoid bursting pipes and flooding next time.
Experience and the right tools help us execute a permanent solution with minimal destruction and cost.
My House is Cold and the Furnace isn't Working
Waking up to a cold house is very concerning. If the general temperature is uncomfortable water lines can be frozen in the cold recesses of the house containing water lines. It's a good idea to take preventative steps to keep the water lines from freezing but for your own safety, your first concern is restoring heat.
Caution if you smell the rotten egg smell of natural gas and it is very weak open the doors and windows to ventilate the house. Leave the house before using any electronic device including your phone*** If you are an Avail Properties resident text your property manager. 780-862-5762 "emergency gas smell"
If the smell is strong and you hear a hissing sound:
Stay calm. Do not use the telephone, do not touch a switch, do not turn any appliance on or off, do not smoke and do not light a flame of any kind.
Immediately evacuate all occupants and pets.
If possible, leave the door open to ventilate the house.
Call Atco Gas 1-800-511-3447 from a neighbor's telephone. And then call your property manager
If the leaking natural gas is burning, do not try to put the fire out. Dial 9-1-1
Here are the diagnosis steps we recommend for a failed furnace
Check to make sure your thermostat has power. It may be as simple as new batteries.
Interpret the error code flashes. The furnace usually has a small window with flashing lights in it. The flashes correspond to a chart of error codes on the back of the furnace access door and in the troubleshooting section of the owner's manual. (You can find the manual on the furnace or in your resident handbook) Read the error code and report it to your property manager along with the make and model of the furnace by texting 780-862-5762 "emergency furnace error code … Make…. Model…) or at least describe the flashes and report the furnace manufacturer name. You can find the model and serial numbers (M/N and S/N) for your furnace by removing the top-front service panel and looking to the left side of the interior cabinet or the top of the blower deck
Go outside and check the furnace exhaust pipes to ensure they are not blocked by frost or ice buildup. If these become clogged dangerous carbon monoxide could by building up in the house.
Check your furnace filter. It's better to run without a filter if your filter is plugged or restricts airflow like hypoallergenic filters do. It can cause the furnace to work very hard and fail.
Locate the furnace power switch. Turn it off for 10 seconds and then back on. Wait, watch and listen to see if the furnace resets and starts heating again. If it does fire something caused it to fail and it likely will again. You still need to take precautions and contact your property manager but it might get you through the night.
Use an alternative heat source like the fireplace or space heaters until the furnace can be repaired by the property manager or a furnace technician. AvailRentals.com recommends www.mckinleyheating.com or Julian Zuzak PLUMB AND PLUMBER LTD. Mobile (780) 914-5112 firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're a homeowner or property manager here is a video explaining common diagnostics https://youtu.be/dPXM8TFMQGw
I hope this blog can save you turmoil and financial setback. As a responsible steward of many properties and financial investments, I attempt to be thorough but this is not a fully comprehensive guide and years of experience and skill can't be conveyed in one blog post.
The recommended websites and companies have not paid to be mentioned here and I do recommend them because I have used their services and or seen their work.
The purpose of this post is to be helpful and I accept no liability for the information in this post. Or your use of it.
Home is a shelter from storms-all sorts of storms."-William J. Bennett
Avail focuses only on residential homes and multifamily buildings under 3 stories. We don't manage investment trusts, condo corporations or industrial properties.
We believe that a Professional, Customer-Oriented Approach, based on Research and hard work, can bring long-term Wealth and Prosperity to the housing provider and improve the standard of living and quality of life in our communities
New and seasoned investors trust Tony's innovative thought leadership, and entrepreneurial mindset to unlock new possibilities. Tony's construction expertise is exclusive to clients of Avail Properties Inc.