Reader Email: Frozen Pipes

The Email: Dear Off-Campus Housing, I turned off my heat as I left for winter break. When I returned the pipes were broken and my landlord is telling me that I am responsible for the damage. No one told me that I needed to keep the heat on...can I really be held responsible? 

Off-Campus Housing Response: Yes, depending on the circumstances, you can be held responsible for damage caused by frozen pipes. As a tenant, you should always take reasonable precautions when residing in your home or apartment. This likely includes keeping the heat at an appropriate level to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. 

Although it may be tempting to turn your heat off (or leave it off, if you haven't turned it on yet), it is not a good idea. The cost in the long run will end up being much greater if you have to pay for broken pipes and any resulting water damage. Before you leave for winter break, discuss with your roommates who will be leaving last and have that person check to make sure the heat is on. 

Although you may wish to turn your heat down, don't set your thermostat lower than 60 degrees. If you have a draft apartment, or if the thermostat doesn't accurately represent the heat, play it safe and set it higher. If you are responsible for providing the oil that heats your home, make sure to have all arrangements prepared before you leave, so that the tank doesn't run dry while you are away. For more information on frozen pipes, visit the American Red Cross' site by clicking here.

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