Know when to call the landlord with a plumbing emergency

Photo credot: Flickr.com - Alice
Photo credot: Flickr.com – Alice

Renting an apartment, whether in a large city or in suburban sprawl, comes with responsibility; not only to maintain a positive rental history, but to avoid larger complications that can get in the way of work, or play. Some of this responsibility rests with you, the tenant, and some of it will necessitate your landlord’s involvement.

For tenants, the rule of thumb is; “If it’s in the wall, think before you try DIY.” This includes electricity and plumbing. Most tenants are hesitant about electrical outlets, switches and breakers and will call the landlord immediately. No one wants to die trying to fix a light bulb. However, plumbing is a different story. Water is safe, and “I can fix it” can become a much larger problem for the landlord down the road.

Also, it’s important to note, you need to mentally document every DIY step you took, PRIOR to calling the landlord or Service Company. This will facilitate any action by a plumber and ease the costs for your landlord. Everyone wins.

Check out the list of the top 5 emergencies that might need a professional. Do you have an emergency?

Burst Pipes

Photo credit: bbc.co.uk
Photo credit:

Often associated with your downstairs neighbor yelling at you that water is coming through their ceiling, this is something you need to identify VERY quickly. The sound of gushing water in the wall, floor, or ceiling is the first sign.

The second is shutting something off important in the house, like the angle stop to the sink, and yet still see (or hear)leaking in other parts of the unit. It’s vitally important to remember you aren’t a plumber, call the landlord or Service Company for the building, and explain the situation. If you have turned off most lines to water (toilet, sinks, fridge, etc) in the house, and you are confident you hear water spillage, it’s paramount to get ahold of 24 hour service.

Any emergency can start or end your day off on a bad note.  Even in super affluent areas, like Boca Raton and Beverly Hills, 24-hour emergency plumbers exist nearly everywhere. Take the lead and show some responsibility by asking the landlord about protocols for emergencies.In smaller towns, try making a relationship with any service technician that comes to the building.This will allow you to make the call to them if your landlord doesn’t pick up your call. Usually, the service company will have a ‘red phone’ number to the landlord that you do not have.

Sewer System Backup

Photo credit: Mosby
Photo credit: Mosby

The scent of sewage, or a front yard completely soaked is a common signature of a septic tank or main sewage line that is backed up. A sewer system backup can be a number of things such as too much water from rain, a broken pipe, roots growing into the pipes, or clogged drains. This is a definite emergency plumbing issue before it saturates the entire yard or causes other damage.

Clogged sinks, toilets, shower drains

Photo credit: galleryhip.com
Photo credit: galleryhip.com

Whether you are brushing your teeth, finished washing dishes, or simply flushing the toilet; a slowly building cesspool is the classic clogged drain. However, it’s important to note that if you’re running the bathroom sink, and your shower is coming up with water, this is a sign that something deeper, under the floorboards, is clogging the main wastewater line from your unit.

Try some home remedies for unclogging a drain or use a plunger for it. A flange plunger is great for toilets while the sink drain works better with‘cup plungers’ because they work best on flat surfaces.  Your sink could be clogged by hair caught up in the drain, lift the stopper up and out and get any debris that you can see out. A heavy gauge wire, such as from a coat hanger, should do the trick. Run the water again, and if no change is present, call the landlord and explain the steps taken.

Leaky faucets, water heater, washer/dryer

Photo credit: icontemplate.com
Photo credit: icontemplate.com

If you have ever been woken up by the drip-drip of your faucets then you know it can be very annoying, sometimes that is all it is and can be dealt with in a timely fashion that do not require an emergency plumber call. Check around the leaky faucet to ensure that it isn’t leaking anywhere else because a buildup can cause mold, broken pipe or even rust to set in. A leaky water heater could be a simple fix depending what is wrong or you could end up having to replace the heater itself, either way it is less expensive than losing a wall because of water damage.

No Hot Water

Photo credit: allwomenstalk.com
Photo credit: allwomenstalk.com

While not nearly as urgent as the rest, it nonetheless requires attention. Please note, if you live in a bigger building, it’s common for the whole building to have the same water heater. Your landlord has probably already gotten a dozen phone calls. Get out of his hair if this is the case. You aren’t the only tenant. On a smaller building or single dwelling, one thing you can do is check the pilot first to see if it is lit; do NOT try to light it on your own, unless you have been explicit permission by the landlord to do so.

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