Lease Facts: Can You Require Tenants to Leave a Faucet Dripping During a Freeze?



Can You Require Tenants to Leave a Faucet Dripping During a Freeze?

In every climate, offering homes for rent comes with a unique concern: How can you ensure your tenants take good seasonal care of the property? Most of the time, landlords can complete these tasks with one or two scheduled seasonal maintenance visits. Clearing the gutters, checking drain and vent lines, trimming foliage back can reduce maintenance demand on your tenants. But what about the tasks that only your tenants can – and must – do when the winter freeze sets in?

Protecting your pipes is the single most demanding part of winter home maintenance that your tenants must do for themselves. Only your tenants can do things like open the cabinets and drip the taps to prevent pipes from freezing. But can you make them? The partnership between landlords and tenants is a complex one. But the short answer is “yes”. In fact, we have several different solutions to help you address the risk of frozen pipes in a rental home.


Write a Pipe Care Clause into the Rental Lease

If your goal is to require tenants to take winter-care of a rental home’s pipes, you can write it into the lease. The lease is a contractual agreement between landlord and tenant in which both parties agree to certain responsibilities and potential consequences. The landlord agrees to take care of key repairs and maintenance tasks, especially regarding the livability of the house and things beyond the tenant’s control. The tenant agrees to adhere to the “house rules”, and these can be (almost) anything that the landlord requests.

For example a landlord can require that tenants not smoke in the property, not have pets, or even respect neighborhood quiet hours. You can fine the tenant or even begin eviction processing if they break the rules they signed to in the lease.

Along these lines, if you write a clause that tenants must drip the pipes and open cabinets to protect pipes when the temperature drops, frozen pipes become their responsibility if they do not complete these steps. They agree to do this when they sign the lease and are contractually obliged, but will benefit if you email a reminder each late autumn.


Insulate the Pipes Before Renting the House

Of course, most landlords prefer a more hands-off approach because it is easier than trusting that all tenants a) read the lease carefully and b) remember all their obligations months and years after moving in.

There are precautions you can take to minimize the need to drip pipes and open cabinets during a freeze. This can remove some responsibility from tenants and remove hassle for landlords.

Landlords in wintery regions often find it more worthwhile to fully insulate at-risk pipes before tenants move in. You can also perform surface-level insulation (like covering outdoor taps) during a seasonal visit to minimize the risk of frozen pipes in the winter.


Install Heat Wire Along the Most At-Risk Pipes

Of course, in deep freezes, insulation might not be enough. Depending on your location, it may be more effective to install a heat wire which runs a small electric current along the length of each pipe, generating heat and preventing a freeze. You can even install a smart switch that responds to the temperature or external signal so electricity isn’t used during warm weather months.


Make Sure Tenants Understand Their Duty, and the Potential Consequences

Finally, don’t forget the value of communication. Most tenants are reasonable people. When they first sign the lease, point out your frozen pipe clause and explain how to protect the pipes in case your tenants have never lived in a wintery region before. Then highlight any consequences that might be leveled if the pipes burst, from the unpleasant experience to any expense your lease may outline.

Then remind your tenants around autumn property maintenance to keep an eye out for freezing weather and to take good care of the pipes. Most tenants will gladly comply rather than deal with frozen pipes in the winter.


Working With Your Tenants to Protect Pipes from Freezing

No one wants to deal with frozen pipes. Your tenants don’t want the cold, messy disaster and as the homeowner, you do not want the expense. The best way to protect the pipes of your rental homes is to combine tactics: Both pre-insulate¬† and/or heat your pipes and include a lease clause reminding tenants to drip the pipes during a deep freeze.

Together, you can protect your property and your pipes in all but the most extreme conditions. At Leaf Management, we know all the tips and tricks to create the best rental experiences for both tenants and landlords. Contact us today to learn about how a property management team can improve your home rental strategy.