What Constitutes a Maintenance Emergency?
One of the benefits of renting property is not having to worry about hiring maintenance services. Your landlord or property manager provides complimentary routine maintenance and responds to maintenance calls. They should also offer a 24-hour call line in case of emergencies. While this service is essential and designed to benefit you, it is important to not abuse an emergency service line. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether or not a maintenance issue is considered an emergency, but this is an important distinction to understand.
Emergency Maintenance Issues
Typically, a maintenance emergency is a situation that threatens your personal health or damage to the rental property if not immediately dealt with. This includes:
- A fire: Of course, if there is a fire in your home or apartment complex, call 911 first! Then call the maintenance line.
- Flooding: A broken plumbing line that is causing serious flooding requires immediate action. Be sure to turn off the water valve as soon as possible to stop the water flow. If the leak can be contained in a bucket, it is not considered an emergency, but you should notify maintenance as soon as possible during work hours.
- Gas smell or triggered CO sensor: The smell of natural gas indicates a ruptured gas line, and needs to be handled immediately, as a gas leak can be dangerous to human health. Natural gas smells like rotten eggs and is highly flammable. Additionally, if your carbon monoxide sensor starts beeping, first take it outside to see if it stops, as it may be a faulty sensor, or the battery is low. If it isn’t defective, immediately get everyone outside and call 911. Preferably leave all of the doors and windows closed to contain the carbon monoxide, as this allows for more accurate readings once the fire department arrives.
- No AC in extreme heat: If the temperature is over 90 degrees, a broken air conditioning system constitutes an emergency.
- No heat in extreme cold: Similarly, losing heat during the winter in freezing temperatures, typically below 50 degrees, is considered an emergency and demands immediate attention.
- Broken locks: If the front door lock is malfunctioning and you can’t get into your home or apartment, you can call emergency maintenance.
- No functional plumbing: A clogged toilet or plumbing malfunction is only considered an emergency if there is not another working bathroom in the home.
- No electricity: A complete electrical outage is only considered an emergency if you have ensured that the energy company is not at fault, and checked all of the circuit breakers, GFI breakers, and fuses. If a fuse is blown, you can replace it yourself. Additionally, if it is only a partial outage, it does not constitute an emergency.
Non-Emergency Maintenance Issues
The following situations are not considered maintenance emergencies and can be dealt with at the soonest opportunity during regular work hours:
- No AC or heat in tolerable temperatures: A broken AC system is not an emergency if the weather is not extreme. Although it may be uncomfortable, this issue is only seen as high priority and will be handled on the next business day.
- Locked out of your apartment: If you have misplaced your keys or are locked out for a reason that is not a lock malfunction, you will need to call a locksmith at your own expense. A broken lock is also not considered an emergency if you still have access to your home or apartment.
- No hot water: A lack of hot water is only an emergency if it has been an extended period of multiple days with no maintenance response.
- Clogged toilet: Again, a plumbing issue is not an emergency if you have access to a functional bathroom in the home.
- Security issues or noise complaints: If there is a serious problem, call the police. Otherwise, notify property management of the situation during regular work hours.
Keep these in mind the next time you consider contacting emergency maintenance services. It is also always a good idea to have tools and supplies handy to make some DIY repairs if needed. Just as you keep light bulbs on hand, you can also store air filters, 9-volt batteries, and a plunger. This allows you to take care of simple situations without having to call maintenance, and you’re not caught in a bind if something breaks after hours.