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houses in winter

Written by SJA Property Management

SJA offers premier Seattle property management services and serves as the local real estate industry’s most experienced resource for rental property owners.

As a Sammamish landlord or property investor, an emergency is probably your worst nightmare, and probably doubly so in the winter when more things can go wrong.

While it is easiest to pretend that nothing will ever be happy, you are legally and morally obliged to be prepared. 

Have Insurance  

Whether your winter emergency is a fire, an HVAC system that’s not working, or frozen pipes, you want to have insurance so that you aren’t responsible if the worst happens. You should also make sure that your renter’s insurance covers basic times like water and ice damage, accidental damage, and liability. While they probably won’t cover everything that happens, they can save you a lot of money and hassle.  

Hand Out an Emergency Number 

As a landlord you are legally obliged to give your tenants an emergency number, which must be answered 24/7. You can keep the number yourself, or hire a property management company or phone emergency service to do so for you. The person who responds also has to be able to put together a reasonable and timely response to the emergency. For example, hiring a plumber to go in and fix a burst pipeline.  

Get Inspections  

While you can’t prevent every problem, getting an inspection of the property, especially the furnace, boiler, electricity, and plumbing, is important for preventing issues and emergencies. An inspection can tell you the condition of each item, and tell you if it needs repairs or maintenance. In addition, some items like furnaces should have yearly or twice-yearly maintenance whether they need it or not. This prevents issues like the heating going out, or a fire caused by the furnace, and ensures that the tenants stay safe. Most of the time a yearly inspection is well worth the money in terms of saving it later.  

Resolve the Emergency Within 24 Hours  

In any emergency situation, you are required to respond within 24 hours to fix the issue, or move the tenants to a hotel while the emergency is fixed. Emergencies include heating that does not work while it is cold out, lack of running water, lack of hot water in the wintertime, electrical outages, lock issues that allow anyone to enter at will without a key, broken windows and doors, short circuits, bare wires, or backed up sewage. The best way to handle these issues is to have a repair team on call to handle emergencies as quickly as possible when they crop up. It is important to note that if you do not fix emergency issues, the tenant can fix it themselves and bill you the difference, as you are liable under Washington law to keep the unit habitable.  

If handling winter emergencies isn’t something that you want to do, consider hiring a Sammamish property management company to take emergency calls, find repair specialists, and fix the problem as quickly as possible. Because most property managers have connections, hiring a property management company could even save you money over paying someone to do it yourself. 

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