By Colleen Tang
A flooded unit is a complicated problem to resolve and clean up, for both tenants and property managers. Here is some advice from experienced pros that can help property managers prevent a flood before it starts.
One of the best things property managers can do is know where the water valves are so that if there’s a leak, they can get to the shut-off valve quickly. If you can’t get to the property, make sure there is an on-site manager, superintendent or landlord who also knows how to shut off the water supply.
When hiring a plumbing contractor, make sure he or she takes the time to become familiar with your building’s plumbing system before there’s a problem, says John Finan, president of Finan Home Service based in London, Ontario.
If you wait until you are in the midst of an emergency to call a plumber for the first time, you may lose valuable time. “You could call a company and they could spend half an hour, an hour looking for the shut-offs and in that time the disaster becomes exponentially more damaging,” Finan says.
Hiring a plumbing expert to inspect your building once a year is also a good preemptive measure. The pro should look at tenants’ ceiling sprinklers, cabinets, sinks, toilets and showers for water stains and any leaks in pipes or water heaters. While in the unit, this is also an opportunity to flush toilets and test all the taps ensure they work properly.
Also at least once a year, make sure your maintenance team inspects and cleans out the gutters, ducts, drain pans and pipes where plaque can build up and cause blockages.
Buildings with domestic water heaters on the main floor should get cleaned on a monthly basis, Finan says, as sediment is often found in the lines of water heaters, which reduces the efficiency of the water heater. The sediment can also scrape the pipes over time, causing leaks.
Lastly, encourage tenants to keep an eye out for water leaks in their unit. A vigilant tenant may spot smaller problems you could fix on your own and before they become big problems, such as a leaky faucet that may just need some tightening up.
If there is flood damage in the building, take care of moisture patches as soon as possible to keep mold at bay. “If you see something wet, deal with it right away because oftentimes if you get to a damp or wet situation you can dry it down,” says Scott Douglas, principal of Paul Davis Systems of Greater Vancouver Ltd. This only works to prevent mold if you catch the leak before mold has a chance to form.
If you are dealing with mold, have an expert sample and deal with the problem because some molds can be deadly, Douglas says. A professional will likely use an antimicrobial treatment to kill and disinfect the affected areas, Douglas says. In addition, make sure you have a good water extraction and restoration company that can take care of any damage left by a flooded unit, says Tom Reynolds, a property manager from Park Property Management in Toronto. Such companies have the capability to deodorize and dry materials out quickly.
With the right plan put in place, the correct knowledge and education, you can prevent many future floods.