Sooner or later, most renters will face a problem in their apartment that requires them to contact their landlord and request a repair or maintenance.
fCertain issues, if dire, are considered emergency repairs. What’s the difference between an emergency repair and regular old maintenance, though?
This question causes a lot of confusion, and is particularly important to understand in the era of coronavirus, when you might be leery of allowing repairmen into your home unless it’s absolutely necessary.
So before you panic over a drippy faucet or broken AC, here’s how to determine whether you’re dealing with a standard maintenance request or a serious emergency repair, according to experts who make these calls every day.
Emergency repair vs. maintenance request: What’s the difference?
Maintenance requests are a headache, but they’re problems that don’t pose serious threats to tenants—think a cracked floor tile or a broken dishwasher.
Emergency repairs, however, directly affect the safety and habitability of a specific unit or building, such as a gas leak, burst pipe, or black mold.
“While some repairs may seem like an emergency, it may surprise renters and homeowners that unless an issue puts them in danger, it’s most likely just a regular maintenance request,” says Jesse Silkoff, co-founder of a service that connects contractors with homeowners and landlords.
“Landlords and service providers must prioritize problems that can actually cause harm.”
For example, an emergency repair is required if a roof starts leaking, Silkoff explains.
However, a broken microwave or a few missing shingles will probably be classified as a normal maintenance request, which can be dealt with within a few days or weeks, depending on the severity of the problem.
Is no heat or hot water an emergency?
So what really constitutes an emergency?
“An emergency repair needs to be addressed immediately, because it impacts the health of the tenants and safety of the property,” says Melissa Zavala, a real estate broker.
“It can also be something that, if not addressed immediately, may have a negative impact on the condition of the property. If there is a plumbing leak, it would be crucial to address as soon as possible, to avoid damage to walls, flooring, cabinets, and other areas.”
An emergency repair might also be related to a home’s security.
“We all know that incidents such as fires, floods, and gas leaks constitute emergencies, but a broken door lock is an emergency, too,” explains Xavier Morales, an attorney experienced in tenant safety.
The reason: “If someone can break into your unit, you’re no longer safe. Some other emergency examples include windows not opening [as you can’t escape] and problems with electrical wiring.”
It’s also worth noting that what constitutes an emergency repair, as opposed to a maintenance request, varies by state. A broken AC in the summer may constitute an emergency for a tenant in Miami, but not in Maine. Conversely, a broken heater in winter might constitute an emergency in Maine but not Miami.
What usually counts as an emergency repair
As a rule of thumb, the issues listed below are almost always classified as emergencies, explains Sardor Umrdinov, founder and CEO of a contractor network, Home Alliance. However, the only way to be certain is to check with your city and state’s government regulations.
Sewage backup: If your sewer line backs up and causes flooding on your property, this is considered an emergency, as it may cause lasting damage.
No running water: If you have no water, or murky water, an emergency repair is generally required to restore your clean water supply.
Overflowing toilets: Not only are toilets essential to the home, but an overflowing toilet can be unsanitary and cause flooding with wastewater.
Gas leaks: Gas leaks pose a serious, life-threatening risk to tenants, which is why they require immediate attention. Call your local authorities if you suspect a gas leak in your property.
Electrical outages: If you suffer from an electrical outage that isn’t caused by the local power company, this is typically considered an emergency repair.
- Security issues: From broken locks to windows that won’t open, anything that prevents tenants from being able to exit their unit or protect their property from theft or other crimes is high-priority.
How to tell if your repair is an emergency
The easiest way to distinguish this is by asking yourself if the problem can wait, without potential for harm to your health or well-being.
“Think about that broken heater during the dead of winter,” says Shane Dutka, founder of Review Home Warranties.
“It’s dangerous for anyone to remain in an unheated home with falling temperatures, but especially older folks or people who are immune-compromised. If it’s likely to affect your health in less than 24 hours, the repair can be escalated to an emergency.”
Also remember that service providers must prioritize emergency repairs over other requests, says Ryan Thompson, a plumber in Miami.
“If we have to choose between unclogging a toilet and fixing a broken pipe, we’re going to go with fixing the broken pipe, since that may lead to more expensive problems if not fixed right away,” he says.
Why tenants should always report issues immediately
Regardless of the severity of an issue, it’s critical for tenants to report any maintenance problems immediately. And it they don’t, they could potentially be held responsible.
“If tenants are derelict in reporting, and this delay causes secondary damages, tenants can be liable for those damages,” says Zavala.
Even if you’re not sure whether or not your repair should be deemed an emergency, you’re better off documenting and making a complaint as soon as possible. Make sure to keep a paper trail of all correspondence between you and your landlord, too.
The post Is Your Broken AC or Busted Lock an ‘Emergency Repair’? How To Tell appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.