Common Emergency Plumbing Situations During Colder Months in a Rental

By: Alex | Date Posted: January 15, 2024

Do you know what plumbing issues tenants may encounter during the colder months? Can you identify what problems DIY home improvement can prevent and when to call an expert? This article delves into the common emergency plumbing situations during colder months in a rental. Whether you are a new landlord or a seasoned veteran, you’ll love this guide on identifying and managing plumbing emergencies when temperatures plummet.

Winter has unique plumbing issues, from frozen pipes threatening to burst to malfunctioning water heaters leaving occupants in the cold. As a property owner, it’s essential to understand these potential risks to ensure a habitable living space. Stick around to find out how to tackle plumbing challenges and keep your investment active through winter.

Common Emergency Plumbing Situations During Colder Months in a Rental

Breakdown of Heater

One of the most common plumbing emergencies is due to Inadequate heating. Winter is prime time for water heaters to develop issues due to overuse. Unfortunately, cold months are also one of the worst times for your heater to break down, making it an emergency. 

According to the warranty of liveability, tenants have a right to hot water in their homes. Thus, if there’s a malfunction, fixing it should be a priority for any landlord. Thankfully, regular maintenance can reduce the occurrence of icy showers. A local property manager in Philadelphia can assist in scheduling preventative maintenance.

Proactive inspections of your water heater allow experts to detect potential problems early and resolve them quickly. Besides, DIY fixes could be costlier in the long run if you’re unfamiliar with fixing water heaters. So, leave the inspections and repairs to the experts to keep your water heating system running smoothly. 

Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are plumbing emergencies that could escalate into more significant, costlier problems. First off, when temperatures drop, pipes can freeze, leading to potential bursts. And unrestrained gushing water can harm your apartment as it could cause extensive damage. Since burst pipes are more common in colder, less frequented rooms like the basement, it could go undetected. 

Secondly, frozen pipes can create the perfect environment for mold to flourish. You could spring a leak when cold water stays in your pipes for days. Although leaking water would create significantly less damage, the constant dripping would create a moist place where mold can grow. Left unchecked, a mold infestation could harm your tenants’ health and lead you to a civil suit. 

However, you can skip those unpleasantries by insulating your pipe during winter. It’s a cost-effective safeguard that prevents you from dealing with burst pipes and mold growth in the winter. Alternatively, leave the water running, preventing ice buildup in your pipes and keeping them warm. 

Outdoor Drain Damage

Another typical winter emergency is outdoor drain damage. A blocked drainage could allow excess water to build around the house and eventually run into crawl spaces and the basement below the house. 

But you can protect against freezing and potential blockages by installing frost-free hose bibs. These easy-to-install devices prevent your outdoor outlets from bursting. They often have a built-in vacuum that reduces backflow and are easy to use.

Additionally, property owners could replace plastic drains with brass or galvanized steel material. Such metals are less susceptible to cold and less likely to break when covered in ice or snow. 

Leaky Roofs and Gutters

Snow buildup is quite common in colder months; the issue is when it starts to defrost. When tenants notice leaks, melting snow and ice can expose roofs and gutters’ vulnerabilities. Undetected cracks and holes in your roofing system allow water to crawl through these spaces and into the house.

Left unchecked, renters could experience inconveniences like leaking roofs and sagging ceilings. You might even encounter electrical problems from water within the walls. These issues could significantly reduce your property value. 

However, landlords prioritizing regular inspections are less likely to have such problems. Routine checks allow professionals to commence repairs swiftly and can prevent water damage from leaky roofs and gutters. 

Landlord’s Main Responsibilities During Plumbing Emergencies

  • Prompt Response

Landlords should respond promptly to plumbing emergencies reported by tenants. Timely action can mitigate damages and prevent tenant inconveniences compounded by the cold. Of course, prompt response is only possible when property owners provide an accessible means of communication. 

Provide tenants with emergency contacts, including yours, and reliable after-hours plumbing services. If tenants know whom to contact in urgent situations, this measure could save vital time and prevent excessive property damage. 

  • Professional Repairs

 Arrange for qualified plumbers to handle emergency repairs. Landlords should know when DIY fixes can help and when to step back and call the professionals. Find a reliable plumbing service within your area that can help you address emergency issues efficiently.

You should also call the experts as part of preventive maintenance. Implement regular plumbing inspections and maintenance to identify potential issues before they escalate into emergencies. Landlords can also download a septic system maintenance checklist and other plumbing assessment lists for self-inspection. 

  • Communication

Another responsibility landlords have is to keep open lines of communication with tenants during plumbing emergencies. It would be best to provide clear instructions on immediate actions and inform tenants about repair timelines.

Written documentation can also be handy for legal and insurance purposes. Keep thorough records of plumbing maintenance, repairs, and communication with tenants. These receipts make it easier to track costs and leave a paper trail backing your insurance claims.


Navigating common emergency plumbing situations during colder months in a rental is something every landlord should prepare to face. Broken heaters, frozen pipes, outdoor drain damage, and leaky roofs are the order of the day when the temperature dips. These issues could significantly disrupt tenant comfort, damage property, and require costly fixes. 

Landlord Communication with Tenants

However, acting promptly, hiring professional help, and keeping channels of communication open can make it easier. A well-informed and responsive landlord ensures tenant satisfaction and safeguards their property. That’s why some investors outsource help to competent property managers who can prevent and reduce the costly repercussions of winter plumbing emergencies.

Thank you for reading!


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