Winter has its advantages: Picturesque snow scenes, the holiday season, an excuse to sip hot cocoa by the fireplace and a whole new menu of outdoor activities. Unfortunately, winter weather also brings some headaches, and those issues can be even more complicated for renters who don’t have direct control over maintenance and repairs.
We hope your landlord or property management company is quick and conscientious and you can solve any problems you might have with a brief phone call. But just in case you run into trouble, here are a few tips for dealing with some of the more common winter woes.
If your pipes freeze or you suddenly find yourself without heat on a Friday night when temperatures are in the single digits, you won’t be able to wait politely for Monday morning. If you don’t know the procedures and contact information for after-hours maintenance emergencies, don’t wait until it’s too late. Ask your landlord or property manager for the information you’ll need if a crisis arises.
Help! I Have No Heat!
Climate control becomes critical long before temperatures dip below freezing. And, it seems that furnaces always breathe their last blasts of hot air during the coldest days of the year. The upside to being a tenant in that situation is that you usually won’t be responsible for repairs. The downside is that you have to wait for someone else to make arrangements. Most areas where it gets cold have minimum legal requirements for heat and hot water, and those ordinances often include specifics as to how long the landlord has to make repairs and what remedies you may have in the interim, such as the landlord paying for alternate lodging or a right to withhold rent and make the repairs yourself. If you’re having trouble getting your heat fixed, check your city and county ordinances as well as state law.
Who’s Responsible for Frozen Pipes?
Generally, the landlord is responsible for maintaining pipes in good working order and will be responsible for any necessary repairs. However, in the coldest areas it’s often necessary to take precautions against freezing pipes, such as leaving water trickling during the coldest periods. Tenants who fail to take these precautions may find themselves responsible for damages, so make sure you take any necessary steps to protect your pipes. Running water is generally considered necessary for a rental unit to be considered “habitable,” so if the damage had already occurred, specific time periods and remedies will apply just as with regard to heating.
My Landlord Hasn’t Cleared the Parking Lot and Walkways
Responsibility for snow removal varies depending on your location and the agreement you’ve entered into with the landlord. Many tenants assume that the landlord will take care of plowing and shoveling, but it doesn’t pay to jump to conclusions. If outdoor snow and ice is causing you problems, first check your lease to make sure you haven’t agreed to take on those responsibilities. If your lease is silent on snow removal, find out what your state law says. Finally, take a look at your local ordinances, which can usually be found on your city or county website. They’ll spell out not only your landlord’s responsibilities with regard to snow removal, but may provide you with remedies or a person to contact if management isn’t keeping up their end of the bargain.
Whenever a problem arises, try talking with your landlord first. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the house or apartment in good repair. If you run into trouble, though, help is available. Whenever a problem impacts the livability of the place, as lack of running water, lack of heat and other basic services will, state and local laws protect tenants.