Maintenance issues happen. But, at one point or another, we all come to wonder whether or not the maintenance issue facing us is an emergency or simply just another one of the regular problems.
Well, if you’re standing under a ceiling that looks more like a rain shower, it’s definitely the time to make an emergency maintenance request. But, what if it’s something more perplexing? How do you know which one of the apartment issues warrants an emergency maintenance request and which one is a non-emergency that can wait a few hours?
In this post, we’ll explore the complexities of maintenance issues together and figure out what is considered emergency maintenance in an apartment. So, without further delay, let’s get started.
How to Recognize an Emergency Maintenance Issue in an Apartment
On our journey to figuring out what is considered an emergency maintenance issue and which issues are more suitable for a routine maintenance request, let’s start by answering some of the most common questions.
What Constitutes an After-Hours Emergency?
The simple way to define every maintenance issue that counts as an emergency is problems that threaten your health, require emergency assistance, pose a risk of injury, or can cause serious property damage if left unresolved longer than necessary.
Does It Require Immediate Attention?
As you can guess from the term itself, all such emergency maintenance issues need to be checked out by a professional ASAP. To qualify an issue for emergency maintenance, it’s important to notice the “blood, flood, fire” aspect of the problem.
If you think you can suffer harm to your health, or the property might get serious damage from the issue at hand, you can be sure it’s a maintenance emergency.
Below is a list of the most common maintenance emergencies for reference.
Fire is the most common example of a maintenance emergency. Any open flames in the apartment can turn into a disaster for not just your apartment, but possibly the entire apartment complex.
But, in case of a fire, you should call 911 first and then request emergency maintenance.
Luckily, your smoke detector will give you plenty of warning before a fire gets out of control. But if open flames break out, it usually warrants an immediate call to your property manager.
Flooding is another good example of a maintenance emergency. Many things can cause a flooded apartment, including a broken water line, overflowing sewers, etc. But the resulting danger is all the same, hence making it a maintenance emergency.
In case of flooding or fire in your apartment unit, try to remove your personal possessions from the vicinity to minimize the damage. But, if it has already gotten out of your hands, you better leave it to the professionals to take care of the hazard instead of risking your own life.
A natural gas leak can be life-threatening, but the mercaptan chemical added into it by gas companies makes it easier to recognize a leakage. That’s why even suspected gas leaks are considered a maintenance emergency.
If you smell something similar to rotten eggs or sulfur, you might have a broken gas line in your apartment. The possibility of an explosion along with carbon monoxide poisoning is an absolute maintenance emergency, so make sure to act fast.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Because it’s both odorless and colorless on top of being extremely poisonous, carbon monoxide is known as “the silent killer.” Many sources other than gas leaks in your apartment can cause carbon monoxide levels to increase, including snow-blocked dryer vents, a broken heater, and blockages in wood-burning fireplaces.
If you notice symptoms like chest pain, headache, dizziness, vomiting, weakness, and confusion, chances are that your apartment’s air might have carbon monoxide molecules instead of oxygen. In such a case act immediately. Open all the windows/doors and leave the property immediately until the maintenance team arrives.
Loss of Water
Not having fresh water flow to your apartment qualifies as a maintenance emergency. Things like a broken water main, faulty booster pump, or hydropneumatic storage tank, and even on-premises issues like clogged plumbing can cause the issue.
Does the Setting Make It an Emergency?
In some cases, the maintenance issue might look like an emergency while not being one (or vice versa). Unless it’s a fairly obvious maintenance issue, you might find yourself in a tough spot to distinguish between high-priority and emergency issues.
Fortunately, many apartment communities outline the common maintenance emergencies based on the context in which they occur. See if you can acquire a list of those.
Some of the conditional emergency maintenance issues in apartments include:
If it’s extremely cold outside, a broken heating system can be a maintenance emergency. In such a scenario, close the windows to keep the existing heat contained, and request an emergency maintenance.
Air-Conditioning Not Working
In extreme heat, the air conditioning being faulty is considered a maintenance emergency. Many apartment communities have central air conditioning, so an air-conditioning issue is resolved very fast.
Either way, make sure to request after hours maintenance for the air conditioning system if the temperature is above a certain level (e.g. 90 degrees). You may have to find out the exact heat level to consider it an emergency for your apartment community, though.
A power outage can be caused by wind storms, blown transformers, or any number of faults in the lines. These may not be maintenance issues as they’re handled by your local utility providers. But, if the loss of power is caused by something within the premises of your apartment or the community, it might need immediate attention by the property management.
As a safety measure, most apartments have ground-fault circuit interrupter systems built into the electrical outlets. Look into the circuit breakers to see whether an electrical overload tripped it and if you can reset it. If that’s not an option, or it doesn’t work, call maintenance.
A Clogged Toilet
Usually, a clogged toilet is not a maintenance emergency. But if it’s the only toilet in your unit, or if the problem is caused by clogged plumbing, it’s considered a maintenance emergency.
Door or Window Locks Not Working Properly
Locks that are not working can be a safety concern, and therefore a maintenance emergency to be handled by the maintenance department. However, if you’re simply locked out of your apartment, you need to call the local locksmith. In case they replace the lock, make sure to provide a spare key to the property’s master key guy.
Similarly, many other maintenance issues might be an emergency depending on the circumstances. Use your better judgment to figure out which ones need immediate resolution and are actually handled by maintenance personnel, then call them.
Maintenance Issues That Might Seem like an Emergency but Aren’t
Many maintenance issues can be problematic, and get prioritized by management over non-emergency issues. But they’re still handled during normal business hours because they aren’t life-threatening. Others, though annoying, are far from causing injury or serious property damage.
High-Priority Maintenance Issues
Apart from maintenance emergencies, many issues that might not be a health hazard can still require a rushed resolution. These are categorized as high-priority, and hence get bumped to the top of the management’s priority list for regular business hours.
Here are a few examples of those.
- Your roof is leaking
- Minor plumbing leaks
- High-use equipment malfunctioning
- The presence of a wild animal in your apartment
Non-Emergency Maintenance Issues
If it’s a dripping faucet, you can probably handle it for a few hours on your own before the maintenance team fixes it. Similarly, many other such things that you can fix on your own can be counted as non-emergency issues.
These are some examples of non-emergency maintenance issues.
- Any fairly small leak that you can fix yourself or handle using a bucket until fixed, like a dripping faucet.
- Appliances like the ice maker or oven not working properly.
- Non-availability of hot water.
- Stove burner not heating up.
- Wall switch not working
- AN electrical outlet not working
- A dirty air filter
- Short-term power outages
People end up calling management for more unrelated issues than you would think. These include the neighbors making too much noise, some DIY issues, and even getting locked out of your apartment.
These typically aren't seen as emergencies and a lot of the time they can be handled without having to contact maintenance or your property managers.
How to Deal with Emergency Maintenance Issues
Emergencies are unpredictable. That’s why it’s always wise to have some steps laid out beforehand, they will not only minimize the risk and damage, but also help you deal with the problem effectively. There are a few things you can do to achieve that.
Take Preventive Measures
There are many ways in which preventive maintenance helps avoid future problems. So, in order to prevent the maintenance problems that you can, do some preventive maintenance every now and then (which involves more than regular cleaning).
Schedule some inspections and get them done to catch minor issues before they turn into major ones. You can avoid cloggings by frequent cleanings and disposing of refuse the right way. Changing your air filters can prevent HVAC issues. Having stuff like 9-volt batteries, spare light bulbs, and a plunger handy is also an effective precaution in case a true emergency does happen.
Be Prepared for the Risk
The risk associated with emergency maintenance issues varies, but it’s a threat nonetheless. Make a plan to deal with any emergency maintenance issues that you have a possibility of encountering and keep a list of resources like emergency numbers for the fire department, police, and management, ready and easily accessible.
Act Promptly and Efficiently
Putting off emergency maintenance calls is something you never want to do. In fact, even when you’re doubtful regarding the risks of a maintenance issue, it’s wise to report it as soon as possible to avoid any possible escalations.
Remember, a seemingly small emergency in your apartment can impact the entire building. Whether it's broken water lines, a mechanical failure, or any number of issues, maintenance problems can spread quickly in an apartment building.