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What to Do With Frozen Pipes

What to Do With Frozen Pipes

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What to Do With Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are every homeowner's nightmare, especially during winter. According to statistics, more than 250,000 Americans experience this problem every year. If that's what you're dealing with at the moment, this guide contains everything you need to know about handling frozen pipes.

Before we discuss what to do to fix this problem, it's important to understand what not to do. Understanding the things to avoid makes the whole process easier. In addition, it helps you avoid costly mistakes that would make you regret your attempts to solve the problem.

Without further ado, let's dive into the details.

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  • What Not to Do When Fixing Frozen Pipes?

    Later in this article, you'll find out that heating the frozen pipes is one of the many ways to solve this problem. However, you should be careful about how you heat the pipe and, most importantly, what you use for heating.

    As a general rule, you should first check the pipe's location and its surroundings. Is it located around flammable materials? If so, don't use direct fire for heating. The same applies when using space heaters. Some people leave these heaters running for a prolonged period, resulting in fires. The last thing you want is to bump into bigger problems when trying to solve a small problem.

    That said, now let's discuss how to deal with frozen pipes.

  • What to Do With Frozen Pipes?

    Knowing what to do with frozen pipes can help prevent expensive water damage. Here are some tips to guide you:

    Open the Faucet

    When pipes freeze, they accumulate pressure. This is actually one of the reasons frozen pipes break. Therefore, it is always advisable to keep the faucets open. Although opening the faucets won't make the frozen water run (because frozen water can't run), it can help ease pressure along the pipes when you begin the thawing process.

    We'll discuss this process shortly.

    Locate the Frozen Area

    Next, locate the frozen area. One easy way to do this is by testing the temperature around the pipe. In most cases, pipes located outside the building have a higher risk of freezing because they're directly exposed to cold. Therefore, begin by checking the pipes outside the building and then move towards the inside.

    Choose the Safest Way to Unfreeze the Pipe

    There are many different ways to unfreeze frozen pipes. However, it's important to settle for the safest. For example, if the pipe is located next to fire hazards, you don't want to use direct fire to unfreeze it. Rather, consider soaking a heavy towel in hot water and then wrapping the towel around the frozen pipe.

    This should help thaw the frozen area. Next, repeat the procedure with more towels. Depending on the length of the pipe, you may need several towels.

    Using an electronic heating pad is also another option. However, safety should be your priority. If you choose this option, keep an eye on the heating pad. Do not leave it unattended for a long period.

    Additionally, before using this option, make sure the area is dry. This helps minimize the risk of electrocution in case of faulty wiring anywhere on the heating pad.

    Consider DIY Insulation

    If you have good access to the frozen pipes, consider conducting a DIY insulation project. For best results, do this after thawing the frozen pipe. You can use heating tape to insulate the pipes. Alternatively, consider using a foam insulator.

    Contact an Experienced Plumber

    If you're not a DIY person, you shouldn't attempt to thaw these pipes. This also applies if you can't seem to access the pipes. While you can successfully thaw the pipes in this situation, this could lead to bigger and more expensive problems.

    Consider hiring an experienced plumber to help fix this problem. Such a plumber will use special equipment to unthaw the pipes. They can also provide professional advice to help fix this problem immediately and plan how to prevent it from reoccurring in the future. For example, using pipe insulators before the cold season can help prevent this problem once the cold season begins.

  • Can I Sue My Landlord If They Refuse to Fix My Broken Water Pipes?

    If you live in a rental property, your landlord owes you an implied warranty of habitability. This legal concept simply means that your landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property is livable. Therefore, failure to honor the implied warranty of habitability could be a valid reason to file a lawsuit.

    However, you shouldn't be quick to file a lawsuit. Just because the landlord won't fix a broken pipe doesn't necessarily mean that a lawsuit is the only way out of such a situation.

    Consider engaging your landlord to find a reasonable solution to the problem. A lawsuit becomes an option if your landlord is unwilling to find a reasonable solution.

    But even before you file the lawsuit, you'll need to consider the following factors:

  • Did the Landlord Violate the Rental Agreement?

    Before moving into a new apartment, most landlords will have you sign a rental agreement, also known as a lease agreement. This agreement explains what both parties owe each other during the duration of the tenancy.

    It's always advisable to read and understand the terms of the lease agreement. Unfortunately, most tenants don't do that and then regret it when such problems arise. For example, a lease usually describes the landlord's responsibility to the tenant. It also explains what the tenant needs to do when such problems occur.

    As a tenant, you may be able to take legal action against your landlord if you find out that they violated the terms of the lease agreement.

  • Did the Landlord Violate the Implied Warranty of Habitability?

    Regardless of what the lease says, most states agree that landlords owe their tenants an implied warranty of habitability. Therefore, failure to repair broken pipes could breach this agreement.

    There are different legally-accepted solutions if a landlord breaches the implied warranty of habitability. For instance, you may be able to deposit the rent into an escrow account until the landlord agrees to fix the problem. Alternatively, you may be able to terminate your lease agreement.

  • Was the Landlord Negligent?

    If you can prove that the landlord was negligent and that their actions caused water damage to your rental property, you may be able to hold them accountable.

    Here's an example of a landlord's negligence:

    Suppose you live in a rental apartment. In that case, it's usually the landlord's responsibility to ensure that the apartment is livable. So when you notify your landlord about a broken pipe, you expect them to treat such a problem with the urgency and seriousness it deserves.

    But if the landlord fails to address the problem within a reasonable timeframe and the broken pipe leads to flooding in your apartment, you may hold them responsible for negligence. The logic here is that it would have been possible to avoid flooding had the landlord responded promptly.

    In this case, you may be able to sue the landlord for the water damage, including the water bills incurred. The specific damages you may be able to recover depend on the details of your case.

    For instance, if the landlord refused to repair the damaged items and you spent your own money to repair them, you may be able to include this expense in your lawsuit. This option is usually possible in states that allow “repair and deduct,” such as Washington.

    If your state allows this policy, you may proceed to repair the damages and then deduct the cost of repair from the following month's rent. However, this option mostly works for minor repairs. It might not be ideal for big projects such as replacing a roof because they're generally more expensive and have a higher risk of inconveniencing other tenants.

  • What If No One Is Responsible for the Damage?

    In a situation where no one is responsible for the damage, you may still obtain compensation if your renter's insurance policy covers this kind of damage. It's also important to note that most renter's insurance policies do not cover water damage caused by natural causes such as heavy rain.

    However, you may be eligible for coverage if you purchased an individual policy explicitly offering flood insurance coverage.

    Even though your landlord might not be responsible for the water damage under specific circumstances, most states will still hold them responsible for the repairs. For example, the landlord can repair a clogged toilet that caused the damage. But whether or not they may need to compensate you for the water damage will depend on the specific factors we discussed earlier, such as negligence on the landlord's part.

  • How Can I Sue My Landlord?

    There are several ways to file a lawsuit against a landlord. The most appropriate option will depend on the specifics, as discussed below.

    Filing a Lawsuit in a Small Claims Court

    As the name suggests, a small claims court handles smaller civil cases. If you want to sue your landlord for a small amount of money, probably the repair costs you incurred after fixing a leaking water pipe, a small claims court would be the way to go. All you'll need to do is file the lawsuit with the court's clerk.

    The court will serve your landlord with a notice to appear in court. Both sides will present their case to court. After reviewing the case, the judge will make a ruling.

    Filing a Lawsuit in a Regular Court

    This option works best for lawsuits that seek compensation for significant damages, usually economic and non-economic. For example, if you incurred huge financial losses due to the landlord's negligence, you may need to sue them in a regular trial court.

    However, it's never advisable to pursue such a lawsuit without an attorney's guidance. A skilled attorney can help review your case to determine liability. Then, once they've established that your landlord is at fault and you deserve compensation, the attorney will also advise you on the best legal path to take when pursuing this kind of lawsuit.

    This is because, in most states, filing a lawsuit for such kinds of cases isn't usually the first thing tenants need to do. Before taking such a case to court, some states require you to demonstrate that you pursued other options. Examples of these options include filing a complaint with the state's housing agency, offering to negotiate with the landlord to reach a reasonable solution, etc.

  • Contact Morgan and Morgan Attorneys

    As a tenant, the law protects you up to a certain extent. As discussed earlier, your landlord owes you an implied warranty of habitability. If you believe that your landlord violated their implied warranty of habitability, including the lease agreement, or even federal, state, or city laws, our attorneys might be able to help.

    All you have to do is contact us for a free case evaluation. One of our legal representatives will review your case and advise you on the best way forward. Remember, Morgan and Morgan does not charge upfront fees. Therefore, you don't owe us anything if we don't win.

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Last updated on May 11, 2023

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