When you rent a property, what is a real emergency? As a tenant, there is an additional built-in safety net in the form of your landlord. Need the plumbing fixed? Call your landlord. Need a window replaced? Call your landlord. Need to let someone know that your upstairs neighbor has had noisy parties at 3 AM every night this week, even though you asked for quiet? Call your landlord.

There are, however, some tenants that take advantage of their landlords, calling in at all hours of the night to ask for things that could (and should!) be handled by the tenant. Read on for the difference between what constitutes an emergency after-hours call to your landlord, what can wait until regular business hours, and what a tenant should not call about at all.

What the Tenant Should Handle Themselves

First, tenants should be familiar with their lease and what is required of them. If a light bulb needs to be changed, most often that is something the tenant should handle. Anything minor, per the lease agreement, should be taken care of by the tenant without any involvement from the landlord.

Conflicts between tenants ideally should be handled between the two parties. 

If your neighbor is noisy at odd hours, let them know that’s not appropriate and you are trying to sleep. Most reasonable people will adjust their behavior.

If your neighbor keeps parking in your reserved spot, or if you notice someone is not cleaning up after their dog in the backyard, make an attempt to let them know that you share a living space and would appreciate a change.

It may be an awkward conversation, but it will open the lines of communication and be less damaging on your relationship with your neighbor down the road .

This does not work all the time, unfortunately, and if your neighbor continues to be inconsiderate, you may have to involve the landlord.

What Can Wait Until Business Hours

Sometimes, things come up that may feel like a real emergency, but really are either things that can be handled during regular business hours, or things that a landlord does not have control over, such as power outages.  Some of the things that can be handled by the landlord during regular business hours include:

  • No hot water for a short period of time
  • An appliance that ceases to work (refrigerator, dishwasher, etc)
  • Minor leaks (such as a runny faucet) that can be inspected and handled in the morning
  • Any repeated issues with another tenant, assuming that an attempt has been made to rectify the situation, including parking issues or noise complaints

These items can wait until regular business hours, and after being notified, the landlord likely has a policy that outlines repair times.  It may depend on what the situation is as well.

What is a True Emergency?

Anything that you would normally call law enforcement or emergency response is a true emergency that warrants a phone call from the tenant to the landlord at any time of day. If a property has been vandalized, caught fire, or was destroyed in a tornado, the landlord should hear about it right away.

If there is something going on that can quickly become an incident that emergency response will need to get involved in should also warrant a call. This can include any natural gas leaks, any major electrical failures (a faulty wire, a burning smell, or a sparking outlet), or any carbon monoxide detection.

Other emergencies that a landlord should know about are incidents where the property incurs major damage, including any flooding (internal through a burst pipe or external through rising rivers), major storm damage such as a downed tree onto the building, a leaking roof, or a backed up sewer line.

Conclusion:

Most of the time, tenants can use common sense to decide which type of contact with the landlord is best. If there is a doubt regarding a minor issue, however, don’t hesitate to call the landlord and ask during regular business hours. If something is a bigger issue and there is a risk of danger to the tenant or damage to the property, calling the landlord after hours is a good idea.