There are two types of landlords. Those who have suffered a catastrophic water leak loss to the property, and those who will. Are water detection sensors a good value for the relatively small investment, or are they a waste of money?
But The Tenant Will Tell Me About The Water Damage, Right?
You probably require your tenants to maintain Carrollton, TX Renters Insurance, and in Texas a water leak caused by tenant negligence would generally fall under their liability coverage. That’s all well and good if the damage is caused by their negligence.
However, human nature kicks in. Tenants are, on the whole, unlikely to make immediate and timely notification to the landlord of a water leak. The more likely response, unfortunately, is to clean it up and hope that no one else in the building notices. They don’t think about mold risk in apartments, they’ll be gone in a few months.
In addition, most tenant negligence water damage losses are comparatively small. The ceiling downstairs may look bad, but sheetrock is not expensive. Neither is a handyman, in the scheme of things. The real risk to landlords without water detection sensors comes from dishwashers, washing machines, and water leaks in non-common areas such as basements.
No one should do a load of dishes or laundry and then leave the house before it’s done. That’s common sense. But it happens every day. Even the most responsible tenant is likely to assume that things will always “just work,” because they always have. But that outlook can quickly lead to a crisis.
There is only one reason that a tenant would advise you of a leak in the basement or another area that’s not normally accessible to them. They would have to notice an obvious problem which required your attention. How quickly do you respond to a complaint of low water pressure? Complaints about lack of hot water tend to get faster responses, because you’re generally required to provide hot water.
But how quickly will the plumber really get there? If it happens at 8 AM after the tenant leaves for work, and they drive through for dinner that night they may not notice it until the next morning. Then they have to call you and let you know. By that time, a broken hot water heater has had almost 24 hours to disgorge its contents and the continuing inflow into your basement or utility room, often with disastrous results.
Water Detection Sensors: What To Avoid
There are a wide variety of smart home systems on the market. The problem is, you’re not trying to create a smart home. You just want to know in real time when there’s a water leak that could be problematic. You don’t want monthly subscription fees or a complicated system. You just want to be made aware of a problem that tenants can’t or won’t tell you about in a timely way.
With that said, you can safely eliminate the vast majority of the consumer-grade smart home hardware that’s on the market today. Little of it is truly plug and play, and most of the options require that you have an entire system from the same manufacturer. Will what’s on sale today be available tomorrow? If not, what’s it compatible with? Probably nothing.
You also want to avoid audible-only alarms. If no one is home, or if no one knows where the noise is coming from, no one will report it to you. That’s self-defeating. In addition to the above, you also need something that’s inexpensive enough to be installed in multiple places. Near the washing machine, under the dishwasher, and in the basement or utility room are the bare minimum for realistic damage control.
Water Detection Sensors For Landlords That Just Work
To meet all of the above criteria, you will need access to wi-fi of some sort. Perhaps there’s internet in the building to monitor something else already. Perhaps you can get access to a tenant’s wi-fi. In the latter case, you’ll also want notifications if the device goes offline, in case the tenant changes their wi-fi password.
There are several water detection sensors that are viable options. Two manufacturers in particular made it quite clear that neither a hub nor a monthly subscription is required, D-Link and ConnectSense. It’s worth noting that the price difference between the manufacturers is significant.
The device will call, email, or text message you if it detects water. In addition, it’s designed to work with a service called “If This, Then That” or IFTTT. This free service allows you to connect otherwise unconnected notifications and other services. You could set up a rule that the water detection sensors would text message you, but also through IFTTT would notify all members of your maintenance team, for example.
In order to get notifications sent to you by the sensor, you’ll probably have to spend fifty or sixty dollars per sensor. But that’s the only expense, and much less expensive than having the basement of your rental property flooded for days because no one bothered to call you.
Water detection sensors are a sound investment that can protect your property. They’re also helpful for early warning of tenant concerns such as no hot water, allowing you to resolve the problem faster and potentially without after hours fees from a plumber.
You require your tenants to have Carrollton, TX Renters Insurance in order to live in your unit, right? To put it in perspective, three sensors per unit at fifty dollars or so each is about the same amount of money your resident is spending on renters insurance. It’s also a one-time expense with long-term payoff.
Don’t forget to mention to your insurance agent that you’ve installed water detection sensors and that they actively notify you in case of a problem. Some companies may even give you a small discount on your landlord insurance as a result.