Investment Property Red Flags: Water, Water Everywhere

Many people who don’t own rental properties, often quip that they would own them if it wasn’t for the fear of fielding a 3:AM phone call to deal …

Many people who don’t own rental properties, often quip that they would own them if it wasn’t for the fear of fielding a 3:AM phone call to deal with an overflowing toilet. Fair enough, I don’t like 3:AM phone calls either – but that is one I’d appreciate to know about ASAP. I like my sleep and that’s why I have an awesome team, including two fantastic plumbers in place.

The meat of this article is about your property bleeding and some of the most gruesome, slow and painful deaths are through water. So, is the toilet far off? Well, generally a toilet can be repaired fairly easily but an undetected, leaky interior pipe can cause a lot more damage, albeit usually not fatal.

The blood of our investment is the cash flow. Unmitigated water flowing in or out is the same as money seeping out of your bank account.

Here are three critical and potentially fatal losses of money and how to staunch their flow:

1.    Code Red: Water leaking into your home from cracks in the foundation, underground exterior pipes or a high water table.

This can be a potentially serious problem as it is difficult to isolate the problem and find the appropriate remedy.

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Solution: Have water flowing away from building, possibly add/repair sump pump, repair/add weeping tiles, seal any cracks.

Mitigation: regularly clean your downspouts so that they are free from debris. Camera snake your water, sewer and city lines. Roto-blade roots, ensure positive drainage, route gutters away from property.

Note: subfloors can help prevent water damage if you have a working sump pump but they can also hide standing water. If you don’t have a sump pump, I prefer NOT to install a subfloor so I can catch the water problem in its earliest stages.

2.    Code Blue: Gradual leaking from interior pipes. This can be a very serious problem when undetected as it can lead to permeating mold in the walls, floors and ceilings. If you have a pipe burst you will often be able to detect the source, shut off the water and begin repairs.

Solution: don’t be afraid to cut the drywall to source  the leak. Use a leak detection expert or a plumber with moisture sensing equipment to determine severity.

Maintenance: replace old galvanized pipes to copper or pex.

3.    Code Yellow: Damaged interior pipes, hot water tanks, leaky appliances and toilets. You might see a puddle form after you shower, run the dishwasher or do laundry

Solution: find the problem connection and repair. If it is a leaky tub, properly caulk.

Mitigation: regularly check areas for moisture, maintain faucets, and replace toilet seals.

  • For big leaks and water damage, rent industrial circulation fans and dryers.
  • Continue to clean up water until the source is dry, open windows to circulate air.
  • Use bleach and water to sterilize drying surfaces.
  • Have carpets cleaned with disinfectants and odor neutralizers.
  • Don’t wait. Be proactive and find the problem immediately.
  • If the problem isn’t clear (for example a broken pipe) get 3 professional opinions (weeping tile specialist, plumber, grading contractor) as applicable.
  • Fix the entire problem. If the problem is unclear, fix it in stages to rule out uncertainty. Example: start with clearing out gutters, improve grading and add water seal to foundation wall.

Remember, there are many things that can go wrong and a variety of repairs; this is not an exhaustive list. It is a systematic approach to help you critically think how to apply solutions to your problem.


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