Amateur Mistakes.

In the first year I purchased an investment property, I learned some valuable lessons. One of them happened as I was on my way to the property with some friends late at night. At the time, I was living in one of the units and had invited people over after dinner. On the way to the property, I got a frantic phone call from a tenant. I could barely understand a word she was saying but as I listed, I got the picture.

The lease specifically states that the heat should be turned down no lower than 58 degrees. This is because in the winter in the north, it gets extremely cold. If the heat is turned down too low, the water in the heating system will not be hot enough nor mobile enough to withstand the temperatures. This is especially true in older homes and mine was built in the 1890’s. The long time resident had turned the heat down to 54 in an effort to save money. It was just enough to push the pipes over the edge. The water froze, one pipe burst, and so started a chain of events that would take several days to resolve.

As soon as I understood what was happening, I got of the phone with the resident, called a friend of mine who lived 5 minutes away and asked him to shut off the water main (water coming in from the city) as soon as he could. Thankfully, he was able to do it immediately. I arrived at the apartment building around 10 pm to find the tenant sweeping water out the front door. The water had been gushing through so badly that the apartment was flooded.

Just as a special note, it was so cold that the water froze as soon as it hit the ground outside, covering the concrete in a slick sheet of ice. I slipped on my way out and went completely airborne, smashing my back on that solid ground… at least it made my friends laugh.  

The moral of the story? I was extremely lucky and extremely unprepared. I had a friend who lived nearby, a tenant who thought to move the water to keep it from collapsing the floor, and a brother-in-law who happened to be a plumber (and willing to drive over at midnight).

It is important for landlords to expect the most unexpected. I never thought this would happen, in fact it had barely crossed my mind. But it did happen. If you are going to purchase an investment property and rent it, it is important to have a plan to address emergencies as they happen. Even having contacts you are sure you can call regardless of the hour. Never underestimate the power of networking with people that know more than you do.

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