No Hot Water? No Problem!

in Help Me Now! on by
Man screams in shock as the ice-cold shower water hits his back

Turning on your shower for your morning wake-up ritual and discovering nothing but icy cold water flowing from the tap is extremely disconcerting, even earth-shattering to those who rely on that stimulus to jump-start their day.

You contact the landlord, who may not yet be aware of the problem, and realize this isn’t something that’s easily fixable. But before you start heating water on the stove and preparing for a sponge bath, you’ll probably want to read through these tips for surviving your apartment without hot water.

Is the Landlord Responsible?

First thing’s first here. Whether or not it’s specifically stated in your lease or rental agreement, management is required by law to provide tenants with a safe and healthy space to live in. And lucky for us all, hot water is one of the services considered vital to health and safety.

What Happens Next

If you live in an apartment complex that has a single hot water heater for all tenants, the landlord will typically check with your neighbors to determine if the problem is affecting everyone or just you. If you are the only renter with no hot water, a plumber or other professional water line specialist will be summoned to check the pipes and other water-related apparatuses in your home to find the problem. If, however, no one in the building has hot water, the problem usually lies with the community water heater.

In either case, it’s a good idea to submit your complaint in writing after verbally reporting it.

Why Do Water Heaters Fail?

There are two common reasons why water heaters fail. They’re either so old that they’re simply worn out, or the thermostat on them is malfunctioning. The former can only be fixed by installing a new water heater. If the problem is the thermostat, however, then that part is the only thing that needs to be replaced to properly regulate the temperature and alleviate the crisis.

In some cases, the solution to your hot water problem might be even simpler. With gas-powered water heaters especially, you’ll often find it’s usually just the pilot light that needs to be relit. A leak in the gas line could also be the culprit. In both gas and electric water heaters, the heating element may also need replacement. Sediment buildup in the tank can also deter the heater’s ability to heat water to an acceptable temperature.

How Long Does It Take to Fix The Problem?

Regardless of the cause of the problem, it should pretty much always take 24 hours or less to get resolved. Again, the landlord is obligated to either have a competent professional fix the problem or replace the water heater with one that works properly.

What Can I Do If The Landlord Doesn’t Fix The Water Heater?

Tenants of rented houses and apartments with individual water heaters have three options if repairs are not made within 24 hours. You can:

  • Pay out-of-pocket for repairs or replacement. If you can afford the expense, this is the most efficient way to get your hot water back. Simply present the invoice to the landlord for reimbursement. Just remember to contact a tenant support agency if your landlord doesn’t pay you back, and they’ll help you recoup your money through legal channels, sometimes going so far as to having you sue the landlord for damages in small claims court.
  • Refuse to pay rent. Since your landlord is defaulting on their agreement with you to provide a safe and healthy living environment, withholding rent is acceptable in this scenario. Talk to a tenant support agency for more advice on how to take this action legally.
  • Break your lease agreement entirely. Again, if the landlord defaults on his obligations to you as a tenant, this is a legit option.

Other Considerations

Water heaters are expensive, so it’s wise to have a reputable technician assess the problem before buying a new one flat-out. The average national cost in 2019 to replace a residential water heater for a single home or apartment (typically one with a 50-gallon capacity) ranges between $650 and $1800, including parts and labor. Choose a technician that does free estimates or agrees in writing to apply the cost of the estimate to the heater itself if deemed necessary.

You should also weigh the cost of repairs against that of replacement, especially if the water heater is old. The average lifespan of a gas water heater is eight to 12 years, while an electric one typically lasts between 10 and 15. Paying for repairs on a unit that is reaching its expiration date is risky to say the least.

Tenants who live in duplexes, triplexes, or quadplexes often find it more cost-effective to pool their resources and share a water heater. A larger-capacity water heater should be considered if there are multiple occupants in the units, or if the apartments are each equipped with clothes washers.

Having no hot water is much like losing electricity. You don’t realize how much you depend on it until it’s gone. And although it seems unthinkable right now, you may actually miss the task of washing dishes when it disappears!

7 Responses to “No Hot Water? No Problem!”

  1. January 15, 2020 at 8:30 am, taylor phillips said:

    Can someone help me sew my building?? I have not had hot water in 2 months, my rent is 2100


    • March 05, 2020 at 5:44 am, kristen cates said:

      My situation is similar to yours? As I study closely did my homework? google it your only option ? Is call a plumber have them come out to your house ? Have plumber fix problem problem with cold water? Fix it replace it? Pay all expenses plumber . After u pay expenses so that u pay out of pocket for. U then take expenses u then take invoice for Management owners show them detailed expense invoice. Present your reciets to landlord. . They still don’t pay than you can sue small claim courts . ty >


  2. March 18, 2020 at 1:38 pm, Smoke Kush said:

    Simply not paying your rent is a surefire way to get evicted. You need to contact an attorney to set up an escrow account for the purpose of withholding rent. You place the amount of the rent due in the escrow account until the matter is resolved. Sound legal advice: consult an attorney before doing anything.


    • August 26, 2020 at 8:59 am, Jeffrey Fox said:

      > Yes, I was going to say the same thing. Cassie, you ought to be careful blithely suggesting your readers refuse to pay rent because they have a dispute. It can open a world of legal troubles and turn out to be severely life damaging. You may end up winning in Small Claims Court, or may avoid getting evicted, but landlords can and do legally keep and share black lists of problem tenants, so you won't be able to rent again anywhere.


  3. August 01, 2020 at 4:31 am, Heidi Kobulnicky said:

    I have a similar issue. Mine is more than what is stated above.
    Each apartment has their own water heater.
    My cousin owns this place but I dont have to pay rent as I am the 3rd owner.
    We have a tenant who lives in the building and he has mental health issues and he goes down to the basement and turns my hot water heater down to a point where it is lukewarm to cold. My husband is on dialysis and cant afford to get sick by taking lukewarm to cold baths.
    I know it is illegal for that tenant to do that, but my cousin doesnt do anything about this issue.
    I am ready to file a lawsuit against both my cousin and the tenant for this.
    Plus I am also dealing with nuisance tenants that live above me and have kids running back and forth 24/7 and it sometimes sounds/feels like a rodeo going on. Get woken up out of sleep or even kept up out of sleep.


  4. September 15, 2020 at 5:58 am, sabrina said:

    is it safe or even ok for my florida landlord to have 4 separate water heater tanks for 4 separate apartments in my living room closet with no direct access? like literally none i have to go in my closet and take down the shelves that they installed this just doesnt seem safe please any help


  5. September 27, 2020 at 8:11 am, Miriam said:

    I live in a large senior citizen complex and ever since they installed a new boiler, we are having problems with the hot water. It seems that only part of the building gets hot water all the time. The other part of the building doesn't get hot water all over he time, it comes and goes. My apartment gets hot water very early in the morning and by
    9 am there's no hot water. The hot water comes back in afternoon at around 1pm and very late at night. There is no consistent hot water flow on my side of the building. The tenants on my side of the building keep complaining but the problem is still ongoing.

    What do you believe would cause a new boiler to give hot water all day long to one side of the building and no consistent hot water to the other side of the building where the hot water comes and goes all day long?


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