When to call the landlord is a good question. Knowing when to call the landlord is an important aspect of being a renter. First, know what method of contact the landlord or property owner prefers. They might want a call for the emergency situations but prefer an email for all other situations. Ultimately, an email would benefit both parties as it is a written notification of an issue. Next, determine if it is an emergency or a non-emergency situation. Then contact the landlord with a specific outline of the issue. Lastly, if you can do something that helps minimize the damage or if the landlord requests you to assist be willing to help. Therefore, gathering the property owners phone number and email address before any issues arise will speed up the repair process. Most importantly, knowing when to call the landlord can keep you safe.
What constitutes an emergency?
How to tell if you need to place a call to the property owner, no matter the time of day or night, ask yourself a simple question: “Am I in danger?” If you answer yes, call immediately. When the answer is a no, then email the issue. If you can do anything to minimize damage, do it. The list below will help.
- Fire. If the place is on fire leave immediately, call 911 to alert the fire department. Next, immediately call the property owner.
- Flood. The basement is flooding, or water is coming in through your front door. First, call the property owner and explain what is happening IE you spotted a broken pipe in the basement or water bubbling up out of the basement drain. Next, if you know where the water valve is for that pipe turn it off.
- Break in. Call 911 and report the incident. Then call the property owner and alert them to the situation.
- Heat stops working. First, check your oil/propane supply. Next, call the property owner. They will want to send a technician immediately for your safety and to avoid frozen pipes.
- Frozen Pipes. Call immediately as a plumber will need to come and thaw the pipes properly and be on site to repair any damage to avoid water damage to the property.
- Electrical issues. When smoke or sparks fly from an outlet call the property owner immediately. If you have access to the electrical panel, they may have you shut off the breaker to that room.
- Water leaks. Water is leaking from a wall or ceiling, call immediately to report this issue. As with the flooding situation you may turn off the main water valve if you know where it is. This will minimize the damage.
Other Emergency Situations Requiring a Call to the Landlord:
- What is that smell? You can smell raw sewage or propane, call immediately both will need immediate attention.
- Carbon Monoxide Detector. When the Carbon Monoxide detector alarms, leave the building immediately. Next, call 911 and then call the property owner. Once the fire department has cleared the building, call the property owner and inform them of the findings.
- Clogged toilet. First, try to plunge the toilet yourself. If it does not work, call the property owner. When this happens frequently and you can plunge it, let the property owner know via email that you must do this frequently. Ultimately, it may be a sign of another issue and the heads up will help alleviate a much bigger issue.
- Safety issue. Anything that puts you, your family, or a visitor to the property in danger should be reported immediately to the property owner.
First, know the preferred method of communication. Most property owners have an email address. When it is not a life-threatening emergency it would benefit both of you to have a written record. Be sure to include a phone number, in case they require further information. Next, include any steps you have taken to minimize damage. In other words, email the property owner with all information about the situation and any steps you have taken. The following list is not a complete list but some of the most important ones.
- Hot water stops working. First, if you have access to the electrical panel, click off the breaker to the hot water heater. Then flip it on again. Next, wait 30 minutes. Then check the water temperature. If no change you can determine if an email would suffice or if it requires a call. (This is a personal preference.) If switching the breaker worked, email the property owner to let them know. Therefore, if it becomes an issue, you have a record of when the incidences happened.
- Appliances stop working. First, check the electrical breaker and preform the click off and then click on method. Next, if the appliance is not working email the property owner. Lastly, when there is damage to the appliance take a picture and send it in the email as well.
- Toilet is running all the time in the tank. First, wiggle the handle. Sometimes the flap in the tank does not seat properly, or the chain that lifts the flap is stuck under the flap. Next, if this does not fix the issue, Email the property owner. Also, if you pay for water supply this little issue can add to your water bill so taking care of it as soon as possible will benefit you.
Other Non Emergency Situations:
- Leaking toilet (not from condensation on the tank). You notice water around the bottom of the toilet or the water supply line is leaking. First. take a picture of the issue. Secondly, email the property owner and place absorbent pads down to keep the water from doing further damage.
- Well water issue. Suddenly the quality of your water has changed. First, take a picture of a glass of water. Next, email the property owner exactly what has changed. It may be the water is now cloudy, has unidentifiable particles floating in it or has developed a smell.
- Visible damage to property. You notice shingles or siding are missing from the building or the front door no longer latches easily. First, take pictures of any visible damage. Next, email the property owner about what you have found.
- Non-Visible damage. Things like weak boards in the steps or the floor in the hallway has a soft spot. First, Email the property owner and let know of this situation.
- Not sure what to do. There is specialty lighting in the building, i.e.: recessed lighting or track lighting. You are not sure what type of bulb to use to replace the blown bulb. It is best to email the property owner with your questions. Another time is to gain permission to do any light repairs or to inquire about changing the paint on the walls. Many property owners have a maintenance crew and would prefer their crew do the repairs. Therefore, if you are not sure gain permission from the property owner. The email correspondence would be considered written permission if there was ever a question.
What to do if you have no response from the property owners.
First, save all your correspondences with the property owner. Every email is a record of your attempt to let the property owner know of an issue. Secondly, if you must call about an issue, write the date and time you attempted to call the property owner. Ultimately, that brings up a key point, how long should you wait for a response to an email about an issue? Typically, a 24- 48-hour wait should be sufficient for a response. If you do not receive a response and it has been more than 48-hours, call the property owner. Lastly, if the property owner does not answer, leave a message for them to call you about the issue.
What if there has been no response? First, know your rights as a renter for your state. Each state has their own rules. For example, in California the tenant has the right to withhold rent until the repairs are completed but in Idaho there is no such statute. Instead, you must provide a written notice with a list of issues and the property owner has three days to fix the issues or you can sue the property owner to force compliance. Therefore, knowing when to call the landlord and knowing your rights in the state you live can prevent you from doing something that will facilitate your eviction.