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Water Tank Watch: How to Avoid A Soggy Situation

Drip, drip, drip…is often how it starts. But by the time a unit owner realizes that the hot water tank has leaked the amount of water released has done a great deal of damage.

In many communities, each homeowner has a water tank which serves his or her unit exclusively. This tank is responsible for heating your water for washing dishes, clothing, and your steaming morning shower. Needless to say, this often forgotten “appliance” is working overtime to keep you comfortable in your unit. But like any machinery under constant use, duress and wear and tear can occur. More often than not, when an element of your hot water tank fails it means the release of a large volume of water. As anyone who has accidentally spilled a beverage can confirm, water travels. So a leak from a water tank in has the potential to make its way into many areas and damage elements of the building’s living space. In the event that this happens, what steps should a resident take?

First and foremost before any leaks ever happen take a few minutes to review your homeowner’s insurance policy. Discuss your policy with your own agent and be certain that you have ample coverage to dovetail with the property’s master policy. This proactive step will ensure that you will be covered for any water damage and restoration work should a leak occur. Water alarms are available at retailers like HomeDepot. This small device sits on the floor near your water tank; it detects the presence of water when a connection is made between two contact points on the bottom of the device. When this happens a shrill alarm sounds notifying you of a leak. It’s not incredibly effective as it does require that a homeowner be present to hear the alarm. But at about ten dollars, it is an inexpensive recommendation that can also minimize damage.

Additionally, check and familiarize yourself with the age of your water tank. Hot water tanks have an average lifespan of seven to eight years; many will last longer than that however. Whenever possible, it is best to make arrangements for its replacement around that time. This situation is one of the rare occasions where “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” doesn’t apply. When your plumber installs a new tank ask him/her about including a water shut off device. A wags valve is the trademarked name of one such device. This item, which must be professionally installed by a plumber, terminates the further flow of water into your tank in the event of a leak. Some homeowners’ insurance policies will offer a discount for the documented installation of one of these devices so be sure to keep your plumber’s invoice.

Please note that that a water leak never occurs at a convenient time. A cool head can help any homeowner minimize the damage to the building . A water tank leak often manifests by way of a soggy carpet in the interior areas immediately adjacent to your exterior maintenance closet. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the ceiling in this same area to be impacted in a unit immediately below yours. Should a homeowner notice signs of a leak, the water to your unit should immediately be terminated. Familiarize yourself with the location of the water shut off for your unit. Each building is slightly different but homeowners should familiarize themselves with this important valve. Once the water supply has been terminated, every available attempt to contain the flow of water should be made. For most homeowners this means the use of many towels and/or rags to soak up the water. Your next move should be to call the property management company. If it is during normal business hours, the call should be placed to the office. As is often the case, water leaks occur after hours or on weekends, the management company should still be your first call. Crowninshield Management has a 24-hour number for emergencies; a leaking water tank is an emergency! Be sure to tell the operator your unit number, name, return telephone number and nature of your problem. You should receive a phone call from a representative of the management company who will attempt to ascertain additional information about the situation you are experiencing. Depending on the nature of your situation, the representative will provide you with the contact information for a vendor to assist you.

When practical, notify your insurance agent of the incident. He or she will be able to offer additional advice. Depending on the volume and location of the water, it may be recommended that you engage a restoration company specializing in the extraction of water. These initial and important steps can make a significant difference in the amount of damage potentially created by a leaking water tank. Being proactive and staying calm will help your community avoid a soggy situation.

Master Policy/Homeowner Insurance Hurdles

When condominium sites renew their current Association Master Policy with some adjustments, or when they obtain a new Master Insurance Policy, it is critical that they notify all unit owners of the changes.

A letter should be issued to assist with a contact for certificates of insurance and how to coordinate individual unit owner policies with the Master Policy.

The Master Policy typically covers all Common and Limited Common elements pursuant to the Condominium Bylaws, although there exists exclusions in the Master Policy coverage that should be considered when purchasing a homeowners insurance policy.

Unit Owner’s Policy
It is the Unit Owner’s responsibility to insure their own contents and personal liability. Additionally, homeowners are responsible for the Master Policy deductible. It is also strongly recommended that all Unit Owners purchase an “HO-6 Policy”. The Master Policy will have a deductible; therefore, unit owners should discuss the following with their insurance agent for the “dwelling” of their HO-6.

  • Please have your agent review the insurance section of the Bylaws of the Condominium Documents.
  • In case there is a loss which does not allow you to occupy your unit, you should consider obtaining “Loss of Use” insurance.
  • Should there be a claim that is not fully funded by the Master Policy’s insurance, you should consider obtaining “Loss Assessment” insurance. Please discuss this with your agent.
  • It is also recommended that Unit Owners speak to their Insurance Agent to include the HO-1732 endorsement, which broadens the perils insured under coverage A-Dwelling from “named perils” to “special form”.
  • It is recommended that unit owners making improvements and upgrades to their units (e.g. kitchen cabinets, expensive flooring, wall covering, fixtures, etc.) retain documentation of the improvements. It is important that documentation be kept so unit owners may recover replacement value.

Investor Units
Personal liability coverage and the deductible is the responsibility of each unit owner. This would include loss of rental income. We suggest that investors require their tenants to purchase an HO-4 tenant policy.

HO-6 Unit Owners Policy Exclusions and Limitations
There are some important policy exclusions or limitations that should be reviewed when unit owners are analyzing their own personal insurance requirements (i.e. Jewelry, Fine Arts, Business Property, etc.). In many instances, these exclusions or limitations can be modified or changed. Please note coverage and endorsements must be arranged through a unit owner’s personal agent!

The importance of insurance within a condominium cannot be stressed enough. It is important to be properly insured against all types of losses. The association should meet with an experienced commercial agent to discuss all types of liability and losses which may occur on their property. We recommend each owner sit down and speak with their own agent with a copy of the Master Policy insurance certificate to insure they are properly covered in the event of liability or a loss.

To Bee or not to Bee…a sticky and sweet dilemma!

by Andrea Georgetti, CMCA, CAM
Regional Property Manager
Crowninshield Management Corp. AMO

My story began when I received a call from a unit owner saying that there was a pile of bees swarming around their window and on the ground under the window. They were afraid the bees would get in their home and they would get stung. The owner wanted me to call an exterminator immediately to come and kill the bees.

My first thought was that these must be the wasps I saw at another unit weeks before that were burrowing holes in the ground. I decided I would take a ride to the community to check out the situation because I would not be able to live with myself if they were actually honey bees. Although exterminators legally cannot kill them, not all vendors are alike and will do the right thing. So, before I headed out I reached out to my colleague Nathaniel to ask if he would be willing to accompany me because he actually has beehives at his home and would know, if these were indeed honey bees, what to do.

Sure enough, when we arrived we discovered a swarm of honey bees and the queen was in the grass. I was told that when bees are swarming they are at their most docile state and will not sting. We decided to collect the bees ourselves and transport them to Nathaniel’s home as he happened to have a vacant beehive we could use. Armed with a cardboard box, some gloves and a mesh laundry bag that I had to quickly run to the nearby Walgreens to get, Nathaniel scooped the pile of bees into the box in the hopes he was able to get the queen. After several scoops, the queen was in the box and the bees began to follow.

Once we collected the bees we closed the box, wrapped it in the mesh laundry bag and despite my hesitation, put the box in my car and drove to Nathaniel’s home where his vacant beehive was prepped and awaiting its new occupants. During the drive, a few bees did escape and were flying around my car, which of course had me screaming a little, but we arrived safely and sting-free. The bees have been doing their thing ever since and have made us a lot of honey! I keep one jar on my desk not only as a reminder of what we accomplished that day but also for my tea. 

Ladder Safety Checklist

Fall is a great time to button up outdoor projects before inclement weather makes it impossible to work outdoors.
Here are a few tips from OSHA to remember when working on ladders:

  • Select the proper ladder There are two types of ladders: fixed and portable. If you need to use a portable ladder, decide whether you need a self-supporting ladder (an “A” frame), or a straight ladder or extension ladder.
  • Always inspect the ladder first. Check for any damage such as cracks, bends, splits or corrosion. If you are working on an extension ladder, check to see that there are no frays in the rope.
  • Check all the rungs and the steps.
  • Remember to use slip-resistant pads to make sure the ladder can be properly placed on the surface.
  • Make sure locks and bracers are working properly, and that all bolts are securely fastened.
  • When setting up and using a straight or extension ladder, use two people to carry and set up a ladder, if possible.
  • Don’t place ladders in front of door unless the doors are blocked off, locked or guarded.
  • Don’t place ladders on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases.
  • When using a ladder to get onto a roof, the top of the ladder must extend at least 3 feet above the roof surface.

Ten Tips When Using a Ladder

  1. Hold on with both hands when going up or down. Always use at least one hand to hold on.
  2. If material must be handled, hoist it up and lower it using a rope.
  3. Always face the ladder when climbing up or down.
  4. Always rest a ladder on the side rails – never on the rungs.
  5. Do not climb higher than the 3rd rung from the top on straight or extension ladders.
  6. Do not climb higher than the 2nd tread from the top on step ladders.
  7. Do not reach your body to a point where your waist is beyond the side rails.
  8. Do not use a metal ladder near electricity (be at least 10 ft. away).
  9. Use three-point contact at all times, always with at least one hand on the ladder. Carry only small objects, and no heavy loads.
  10. Take special precautions when setting up or climbing a ladder on a windy day.