Why is My Water off in My Apartment?

Turning on a plumbing fixture and having no water come out is a dreaded situation that can cause a lot of confusion and disruption to your daily routine. As an apartment dweller, you may find yourself at a loss on what to do, especially if you’re not sure why your water is off in the first place.

Why is my water off in my apartment? If you turn on a tap and no water comes out, consider checking if your water main is open – your water supply may have been turned off at the main house shutoff valve. Another reason why the water is off in your apartment may be because your water supplier is experiencing an issue.

If your neighbors also have no water in their units, chances are your lack of water is something you have to contact your water supplier about to find out what’s going on. A leak in your plumbing pipes can cause a drop in your water pressure or even completely stop the flow of water. If there are no leaks, a blockage in your plumbing pipes may be what’s causing the lack of water in your apartment. In addition, sediment and debris buildup can hinder water flow, especially if it’s been accumulating for a long time. 

Water is undoubtedly one of the most essential utilities – having no water makes living in an apartment inconvenient at the very least and renders the place uninhabitable in the worst case scenario. So what might be the cause of you not having this vital utility?

Why the water is off in your apartment

1. Your water supplier is experiencing an issue

Before you start tinkering with your pipes and turning valves, ask around. If your neighbors are experiencing similar issues, it’s likely the absence of water has nothing to do with something in your own unit.

Contact your water supplier to try and find out if they’re aware of and working on an issue with the water supply. If it’s a problem that they are still in the process of fixing, your only option is to sit tight and stock up on bottled water until the issue is resolved.

However, if the water company denies the issue or isn’t willing to deal with it, your only option may be to mobilize your neighbors to come up with a petition that addresses it.

2. Your pipes are leaking

Leaks could be the cause of the sudden absence of water in your apartment. Leaking pipes misdirect your water supply so that even if your plumbing fixtures are in good condition, you’re not getting a steady water flow.

If you have access to your pipes, you might want to take a look around and see if you can find any wet spots or pooling water. Once you figure out which pipe is leaking, inform the property manager or landlord so that the issue can be fixed.

3. The main house shutoff valve is closed

If you’re the only one in your apartment building with no water, chances are your main house shutoff valve is closed. This valve may be located outside your home, but it’s likely that it’s inside where the main city supply pipe is located. If you find it, you can turn it on yourself – otherwise, you’ll want to make your landlord/property manager aware so that they can deal with it.

4. The water meter valve is closed

If your main house shutoff valve is open all the way but you still have no water, your water meter valve may be the issue. If you suspect that it’s closed, you may want to contact the water company to send someone to go and open it.

5. There is a blockage in your plumbing pipes

Clogs don’t just build up under drains – they can also form in the depths of your pipe, and if not remedied, they can block the flow of water to your apartment. Clogs are not easy to spot, so you’ll want to have a professional come in to handle the problem.

6. Your pipes are frozen

Sometimes you may have no water in your unit due to frozen pipes. This is especially common during the winter. Frozen pipes have been known to completely stop the flow of water to faucets, so you’ll want to check yours to see if this is the issue.

7. The tap washer is dislodged or damaged

Cracks and punctures in your tap washer can be created by debris that find their way into your drains. This could potentially restrict or completely cut off your water supply. The drain itself may be old and damaged through continued use, which could also have caused the problem.  

Can my landlord shut off my water?

A landlord who wants you to vacate your rental unit can evict you under the terms of the lease agreement you signed when you moved in (for example, if you don’t pay the rent), following the rules and procedure in place in your state. A landlord cannot, however, cut off your water as a way to get you to move out.

Lease clauses on utilities such as water

A lease or rental agreement should have a “utilities’ clause that clearly specifies who is responsible for what services and bills. In many cases landlords pay for garbage collection and sometimes water. Residents usually pay for other utilities such as gas and electricity. Make sure you look for any clause that covers this before you sign the lease. You might also want to see the utility meters to see if you share a meter with your neighbors or have one of your own.

Generally, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to pay for utilities when there are no occupants in the unit, and to cancel these accounts on a specified day that should be on the lease. As a tenant, you have to contact the utility companies, sign up, and pay for them so that they don’t get cut off. 

If you’re unable to keep up with your utility bills and a service like water being cut off, your landlord may have grounds to terminate your tenancy as it is your responsibility under the terms of your lease or rental agreement. 

What if you share a water meter with your neighbors? 

Some older buildings do not have a separate water meter for each unit. When there is a single water meter for the whole building, the costs may be allocated among the residents, usually based on the size of the units. Any shared services should be clearly covered in your lease or rental agreement. In some states, the laws require landlords to disclose any shared utilities. 

When is the water bill included in the rent?

Water and any other utilities are included in your rent only when this is clearly stated in your lease or rental agreement. If this is the case, then your utilities are in the landlord’s name. Generally, the more utilities included in your rent, the higher it will be.

What are your rights regarding water shutoffs?

If your landlord turns off your water, negligently or purposefully, make sure you make a demand in writing that it’s restored as soon as possible. Make sure you include the date in which the water was shut off, and if you believe the landlord did it on purpose, you might also want to include this and point out that such an action is illegal and that you’ll pursue legal action if your water supply is not restored immediately.

When you don’t pay rent on time, your landlord’s only option is to serve you a three-day pay or quit notice. Turning off your water supply or any other utility is  not an option. If you stay in the rental unit past three days and still fail to pay rent, the landlord will file a complaint with the court, and you’re required to submit a written response. 

If your landlord is unwilling to turn your water back on, you have several options. One is to submit a complaint to your local department of building and housing or health department so they can deal with the issue. You can also try reaching out to your local city rental committee or legal aid society to have them act as a mediating party between you and your landlord. Another option is to hire an attorney so you can begin the process of filing a lawsuit.

What if you can’t pay your water bill?

If the utilities are in your name, your landlord cannot cut your water. On the other hand, the utility company can cut your utilities off if you fail to make payments on time or refuse to allow the company to access its equipment. 

In general, a utility company has to send you a notice and attempt to reach out to you close to the shutoff date. Even after your water is shut off, you’re still responsible for paying past-due amounts. 

Final thoughts

If the water in your apartment is off for seemingly no reason, you may want to find out the cause of the problem to see if you can remedy it or have a plumber come in deal with the issue. It’s worth noting that some issues are more complicated than others, like if your landlord shuts off your water. All in all, it’s important to do your research so that you know how to deal with different scenarios.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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