YES RIGHT HERE !! Think it doesn’t happen here? Think again !!!
If you have never experienced frozen water pipes, perhaps you do not understand the severity of this situation. When water pipes freeze, the water expands and splits or cracks the pipe. Then, when the water is under pressure, it finds that crack, and the water runs until someone notices and shuts it off. Your investment rental property has fallen victim to a major catastrophe, but it wasn’t a flood, a hurricane, or a tornado. Frozen pipes aren’t just an inconvenience; about 250,000 homes are ruined each winter because of water pipes that freeze, burst, and then destroy property.
Worse yet, many of your fellow investor-owners and property managers mistakenly think that frozen pipes do not happen in the metropolitan Phoenix area or in warm desert areas around the state. They are mistaken! Almost every year there are frozen pipe incidents in cities where they were never expected.
Many frozen pipe claims are not covered by insurance. That’s because virtually all insurance companies have one requirement and if that is not met, there is no insurance coverage. That requirement is that “the heat must be turned on in the building” (or it must be ‘winterized’, something people routinely do in Flagstaff, but seldom in the warmer parts of the state.) Most insurance companies do not set a temperature requirement for heat, but a minimum of 55 degrees (12 degrees Celsius) is recommended by some sources. Read your insurance policy or call your insurance agent just to be sure you do not have a specific temperature requirement.
Since you are not living in your rental property, your objective is to communicate the heat requirement to your tenant(s) and make sure they follow your instructions. Some landlords and property managers add the heat requirement to their lease. At the same time, they recommend or require “renters insurance” for the tenant themselves. Fact is, 8 inches of water on the floor of the house from a frozen pipe leak is going to be as much of a problem to your tenant as it is to you as the owner or the property manager.
Higher risk properties include those that have been re-plumbed. Usually, the new pipes are run from above and are more likely to freeze in the cold attic, than the original pipes under the floor. Having the heat turned on in the house, often provides just enough heat that rises upwards to keep attic pipes from freezing.
Another high-risk situation is condos or other multi-unit buildings, where seasonal residents may be away and did not leave their heat turned on. It only takes one un-heated condo in a building with multiple units to have a frozen pipe leak that flows under adjacent walls into neighboring units or to units below and causes extensive damage to many other units.
Even with the heat turned on, there are no guarantees. Since garages are seldom heated, water pipes in garage walls and ceilings (including fire sprinkler pipes) can be the “weak link” in some cases. In one actual claim, the motor heat from the two parked cars when the owners came home from work each day, was just enough to prevent freezing. But when the family left on vacation, with no car engine heat, the pipes in the garage froze and disaster struck.
Now would be a great time to add something about frozen pipes to your billing notices or any other tenant communication you utilize. I also have available a small hand-out about frozen pipes and can provide multiple copies free. Frozen pipes can be prevented!
Think you’ve read this information before? This is an updated version of a similar article that appeared in January 2019.
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CLARK SANCHEZ has been an Arizona insurance agent for over 41 years and has been a Vendor-Affiliate with AZREIA for about 20 years. You can contact Clark if you have any insurance related questions at email@example.com or (602) 803-2179