Extreme Cold Keeping Some Property Managers Busy with Repairs on Houses, Apartments

At ShipRock Management maintenance staff offers to check on homes when tenants are away, to catch cold weather damage before it escalates.

DULUTH, Minn.- The recent arctic weather has been harder on homes in the area, especially Duluth’s older, more heat-inefficient houses and apartments. And some property managers say they’re finding their hands full with maintenance.

At ShipRock Management, maintenance staff says their 10 full-time crew members have been working around the clock to combat frozen water lines and drains.

“This past week has been one of our more challenging weeks of the year by far,” said Maintenance Manager Tyler Bystedt.

Many homes in the area are older, he said, and more prone to cold air leaking in through doors, windows and foundations.

“We try to stay ahead of them as best as possible,” Bystedt said. “It is challenging but from our past experiences, we typically know which properties are more problematic than others.”

So if a tenant will be out for a while they offer to go in and check to see if anything is frozen, or if machines are overheating.

“Especially this past week furnaces and boilers are working really hard and there’s a small chance that something might go wrong,” said Bystedt.

“It could be as easy as a battery in a thermostat that fails and if we’re not there to catch it quickly or the residents aren’t there to catch it quickly, it can really create a lot of damage,” he said.

According to the Maintenance Manager, residents in more heat-inefficient homes can take precautions themselves.

At night and when leaving the house, tenants are encouraged to leave faucets on a trickle so the moving water can’t freeze, and to leave cabinets and drawers; and inside doors open to let the heat move around pipes and rooms.

Bystedt also urges tenants to make sure the thermostat is set at no lower than 65 degrees when the house is vacant.

“The big thing is just to be overly cautious, so now is not the time to try to save on your heating bill,” he said.

“There are some cavities in the walls or basements or other rooms that aren’t that temperature,” said Bystedt, “so if we start getting too low in there there’s a chance that in some cases basements may not be properly heated.”

Above all, he asks tenants be understandable when requesting maintenance for these frigid weather problems, as the Northland hopefully moves out of this cold snap.

“Our crews are doing a great job, but inevitably they’re a little bit backed up, and if a water line does freeze or if a drain line does freeze, we just ask for your patience,” Bystedt said.

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