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Renting an Apartment? Here’s What You Need to Know about Ice Dam Removal

If you’re renting a house you might never have given a thought to ice dam removal.  For good reason, too.  For instance, you may have lived in a managed apartment complex before, where the owners tend to treat ice dam removal as more of a routine “cost of business” than might a small, private landlord who rents out a house.

Still, as a renter, there are some things you should know about ice dam removal, and what it means for you and your landlord.  If you don’t take ice dams seriously, your landlord is less likely to.

1. Don’t wait until the house is leaking to call your landlord.

Know how to identify an ice dam in the making.  That will allow you to catch the ice dam and to inform the landlord before the ceiling caves in on your head (or on your new big-screen TV).  Tell your landlord immediately if you see any of these:

  • Water on the walls, near the walls, or around the window
  • Leaks coming from the ceiling or any signs of moisture on the ceiling
  • Brown icicles hanging off the house
  • Icicles or large chunks of ice on the siding
  • A giant, thick block of ice on the roof

Don’t wait for your landlord to come knocking on your door to tell you an ice dam removal pro is on the way.  It’s unlikely to happen.

Besides, calling him or her early gives you an ace in the hole. Document it every time you call.  Then, if they wait until there’s a leak you can say, “Hey, I told you that ice was piling up, and you didn’t do anything about it.”

What if you wait until it’s leaking?  The landlord may be furious, wondering why you didn’t call sooner.  He or she will probably come out on the losing side of any dispute, but it will come at the expense of your time and sanity.  Keep the peace.  For everyone’s sake, look out for ice dams and let your landlord know if you think you’ve got one.

2.  Offer to rake some snow off the roof.

Raking snow off the roof is one of the best ways to prevent ice dams from forming.  If your landlord isn’t getting it done you can suggest hiring someone to do it.  Or you could offer to do it yourself in return for getting a break on your rent.

You and your landlord will have to determine what’s fair, but you have a strong argument: your roof-raking might well save them more than they’d lose by giving you that little break on rent.

Just make sure you do it if you agree to it, and document your work with before-and-after photos.  Roof-raking alone doesn’t guarantee no ice dams will form, and you don’t want to wind up in some sort of dispute where the landlord claims you agreed to “stop ice dams from forming,” which nobody can do with certainty.  At most, you should agree to rake the roof after each snowfall.  If you agree to it, do it.  Otherwise, your landlord could point a lawyer’s finger at you when it comes time to pay a several-thousand-dollar bill for ice dam removal.

3.  Do a little research. 

To find a good ice dam removal company takes a bit of gumshoeing.  As I’ve mentioned, your landlord may be very busy – too busy – for better or for worse.

He or she might well appreciate your saying, “There’s a lot of ice on the roof, I think an ice dam is forming, and I found this company that looks reputable because of X, Y, Z reasons. Here’s the number to schedule an appointment.”

The landlord might not take your suggestion, but they’ll appreciate your offering solutions, and you’ll have made a good-faith effort.  Your landlord might just follow through, though, because it’s one fewer thing to worry about. Sometimes half the battle is simply finding a reputable company for the job.

You and your landlord don’t have to be antagonists in a three-way war with your ice dams.  You can work together to keep things safe and dry, with all your property and your relationship intact.

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