When something goes wrong in your apartment, is it a maintenance emergency? Or not?
If you are in doubt about what constitutes an emergency, you’re not alone. After all, many tenants live in their apartments for a long time without experiencing a issue. As a result, there’s not always a great deal of experience to draw from. But as the COVID-era continues on, and people remain at home most of the time, plumbing and appliances will inevitably get more use— and will require more maintenance as a result.
Read on to learn the difference between a maintenance issue that is serious enough to require immediate emergency assistance and one that is more suited to a typical maintenance request.
What is a Maintenance Emergency?
Let’s begin by defining the term “maintenance emergency.” It is something that requires immediate attention. If left unresolved, the problem could result in injury, threaten one’s health, or cause serious property damage. For example, a suspected gas leak is always an emergency. Sometimes, the context matters, like a loss of air conditioning during a heat wave.
So, is it a maintenance emergency? There are three possible answers: yes, no and maybe.
Yes, a Maintenance Emergency
Some occurrences are definitely emergencies. Fires, floods, suspected gas leaks, or a loss of power or water are examples. In many such situations, your first call is often to someone other than your property manager. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Open flames or heavy smoke in your apartment require an immediate call to 911. Any hesitation endangers tenants and others. Any delay may also increase damage to your unit, adjacent units, or the entire building. The 911 dispatcher will provide instructions specific to the threat.
A natural gas leak is very dangerous, even life-threatening. There’s the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning or an explosion. Fortunately, utility companies add the chemical mercaptan to natural gas to make it smell like rotten eggs or sulfur. In the event of a suspected gas leak, turn off your appliances and/or the gas line. Immediately evacuate the area and call 911. Avoid creating any spark or flame that could cause an explosion.
Poisonous, odorless carbon monoxide (CO) may infiltrate your living space in a variety of ways. A vehicle running inside an attached garage is one source. Grills, snow-blocked dryer vents, and blockages in wood-burning fireplaces are other sources. Malfunctioning gas water heaters or furnaces may also increase CO levels.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning vary. Initial symptoms often include tightness across the forehead, a pounding heart, or headache. Since exposure to concentrated CO can be fatal, it is vital to act without delay. Vacate the premises and seek help. Open windows to ventilate the unit, but only if you can do so safely.
There are different reasons for flooding in an apartment. Examples include a broken water line or water overflowing from another apartment. A backed up sanitary sewer or an overflowing storm sewer are other possibilities. If you arrive at home and there’s flooding, it’s time for an emergency maintenance request. Vacate the premises and contact management. Sometimes, flooding may pose a threat of electrocution. Seek immediate help to reduce damage to personal possessions, carpet, and drywall.
A maintenance emergency is something that requires immediate attention. If left unresolved, the problem could result in injury, threaten one’s health, or cause serious property damage.
Widespread loss of power may occur due to a windstorm, an ice storm or a blown transformer. Contact your local utility to report an outage. Your local utility will restore power as quickly as possible. Such power outages are beyond the control of the property manager.
A loss of power within an apartment building is different. Sometimes, an electrical overload trips a circuit breaker. If it’s accessible, check the circuit breaker to reset it. If not, seek management’s help. Sometimes, an overload trips a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) built in to an electrical outlet. Portable appliances like hair dryers draw significant power. To reset it, push in the red horizontal button in the middle of the face plate.
In all cases, make management aware when fresh water does not flow to your apartment. Loss of water is a maintenance emergency. Sometimes, a broken water main is the culprit. The local water utility will try to complete a repair as quickly as possible. It is also possible that the problem is on the premises. The main water line may get clogged, for example. Or, there might be a mechanical failure of a booster pump or a hydro-pneumatic storage tank.
Not a Maintenance Emergency
Tenants do encounter certain events that may feel like emergencies in the moment. However, they are not considered maintenance emergencies.
Noisy parties or loud voices are not considered emergencies. Still, it can be helpful to follow up with management during regular hours. Be sure to report suspected criminal conduct to 911.
Locked Out of the Apartment
Getting locked out of an apartment requires a call to a local locksmith. However, the locksmith must coordinate the re-keying with the property manager. It is vital that the lock still works with the property’s master key. You might wonder if your renter’s insurance covers the cost of a locksmith. It might, but only in the event of a covered theft.
It’s becoming increasingly common for properties managers to issue key fobs to tenants instead of traditional metal keys. In the event that you’re locked out of your apartment unit because you lost your key fob, the property manager will be able to re-issue you a new one. Depending on the details of your lease, you may be charged a fee for a re-issued key fob.
Possible Maintenance Emergency
The context in which a problem occurs is often important. The setting or the situation may determine whether there’s a maintenance emergency. Consider these examples.
If it is really cold outside, a loss of heat might be an emergency. Close doors and windows to help keep the existing heat in the unit. At other times, it’s still vital to submit a maintenance request.
No Air Conditioning
Loss of air conditioning is not usually considered an emergency. Still, you’ll want to submit a maintenance request. Today, many tenants live in buildings with central air conditioning. As a result, management often learns of an issue right away. Still, you’ll want to submit a maintenance request, particularly if it’s a window unit. In extreme heat, the loss of air conditioning may be a maintenance emergency. In that situation, contact management without delay.
A clogged sink or toilet is not an emergency. However, it is a maintenance emergency if the whole plumbing system is clogged.
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