Frozen, burst pipes force hundreds from Dallas-area apartments, saddle tenants, owners with huge expenses

With Texans grappling with days of freezing weather and power outages, homeowners and residents are particularly hard hit.

Social media posts show water flowing out of Dallas apartments flooded by broken pipes. In many cases, sprinkler systems in the ceilings would freeze up and then burst to send currents into living spaces.

Lauren Jacob posted photos of flooding at her Victory Park complex when the sprinkler system burst. She said management eventually shut down the system.

“About 15 to 20 units were affected,” Jacob said in a message. “I live on the other side of the complex and was not affected. Heard they dried up the water with professional crews, but I think a few people got evicted. “

Many other rental buildings were hit even harder.

In Oak Lawn, the Wycliff Complex 2929 urged tenants to move out due to severe water damage.

“At this point the outgoing sewer pipes are frozen underground and we cannot clear them,” the managers told the residents of the 284 apartments in an email. “In order to avoid further damage, we have shut off all water for both buildings and have to wait until the pipes have thawed in order to be able to further assess the situation.

“Most importantly, this prevents you from using your toilets and eliminates your water source,” the letter said. “As a result, the building would be considered uninhabitable and all residents would have to evacuate the building until these resources can be restored. We currently do not have a specific point in time when we can restore these resources to your building. “

Residents were advised to contact their tenant’s insurance company to file claims for property damage and request reimbursement of relocation costs.

At least one other Oak Lawn rental community told residents the same thing.

Homeowners, who were also badly hit by the pandemic, expect huge losses due to the winter storm.

“Unfortunately, it will be days before we know how much damage the property owners have taken in full, but the toll will undoubtedly be in the millions,” said Ian Mattingly, an official for the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas and CEO of Luma lease management Residential. “Due to the nature of commercial insurance markets, much of it is excluded from coverage by carriers who seek to minimize losses.

“Right now, however, most owners are focused on doing what is best for their residents in the cold,” he said. “It is of the utmost importance that they have access to heat and water. I spoke to residents and our maintenance teams on the phone for much of the day yesterday. “

Camden Property Trust, a major North Texas home owner, owns one of the Victory Park rental communities that has suffered water damage.

“No communities had to be evacuated, and most communities were restored to electricity and water,” Camden’s Kim Callahan said in an email.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many homeowners had already struggled to keep residents, with rental concessions growing and rents falling in some areas. The cost of repairing storm damage is not simply passed on to tenants.

“Homeowners will not be able to raise prices just because their expenses are up,” said Greg Willett, chief economist at RealPage in Richardson. “There is always a battle for rental growth that keeps pace with rising property taxes and insurance premiums.

“This year’s budgets will be more difficult to meet with the increased cost of home repairs, even if some of that spending is covered by insurance.”

The full extent of the damage will not be known until the properties are fully thawed and repairs are likely to take a long time.

“Licensed plumbers are still in short supply, unfortunately many homeowners have to wait weeks for repairs,” said Phil Crone, executive officer at the Dallas Builders Association. “Homeowners and companies with sprinkler systems are particularly at risk, as these can normally only be switched off by the fire department or a specially approved contractor.

“Our office in Plano experienced the worst when a burst pipe collapsed a ceiling, causing massive damage.”

Renters who have property insurance must file claims to cover the cost of damaged items and the cost of temporary removals required by damage to their units, RealPage’s Adam Falkauff said.

Apartment complex owners – including those with insurance – will face high costs and the prospect of higher insurance premiums.

“When [building] Owners are making claims, facing costs, with normal deductibles starting at $ 100,000 and the likelihood of increasing premiums, ”Falkauff said. “Just like in a car accident, the more claims you make, the more likely your premium will increase over time.

“This is especially important as property insurance has tightened significantly over the past few years and many homeowners have seen their premiums grow by 50% to 100% over the past three to five years.”

Homeowners try to plan a strategy.

“I think most people need insurance for repairs when there is significant damage,” said Matt Segrest, CEO of Dallas-based home builder and owner Alamo Manhattan. “For amounts that are less than the insurance deductible, repairs are self-financed.

“Yes, I agree – the industry keeps getting hammered.”

Segrest said his company had been lucky so far.

“We only have one problem – a burst sprinkler pipe – on one property, and it’s relatively minor,” he said. “I’m a little nervous about what we’ll find when things thaw out, though.

“We’re likely to see big problems with our housing stock, especially the older stuff.”

Abby Belton loads bags into her car as she prepares to leave her Victory Park apartment after a winter storm brought snow and continued freezing temperatures to North Texas. Since her apartment was not habitable, Belton said she would leave town so she could continue working. (Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News)(Smiley N. Pool / Employee Photographer)

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