Landlord-Tenant Emergency Guide

Emergency Reference Guide for Landlords and Tenants

The Emergency Reference Guide is designed to help your tenants remain safe and respond appropriately to emergency situations like fire, water, gas, electrical, heating and cooling, and plumbing emergencies.

You can download a PDF version below.

Fire Emergencies

Cooking Fire

Turn off burners and exhaust hood fan. Slide fitted lid onto pan.
Pour baking soda or salt on fire to smother it. Do not apply water, baking powder, or flour to fire.
Close oven door to smother flames and turn off oven to allow it to cool. If flames spread, use a fire extinguisher.

Grease fire in range hood

Turn off range hood; if flames do not subside, use a fire extinguisher.

Fire inside toaster or microwave oven

Do not open door of appliance. Shut off power at main service panel then, unplug appliance from wall outlet.

Clothes burning or melting in dryer

Close dryer door to smother the fire. Shut off power at main service panel. Allow dryer to cool before removing clothes. If flames develop, use fire extinguisher.

Fire in electrical outlet, switch, fixture, appliance, unit, or power cord

Call fire department. Use fire extinguisher rated for electrical fires. Shut off power at main service panel. Then, unplug unit power cord from wall outlet. 
If flames or smoldering continue, leave house and wait for fire department.

Heating or cooling unit on fire

Use fire extinguisher. Call fire department.

Burning or other peculiar odor coming from electronic unit.

Turn off unit and unplug its power cord from wall outlet before servicing. Locate and repair cause of odor or take unit for professional service.

Water Emergencies

Clothes washer overflowing

Turn off washer. Set timer on final spin cycle to pump out water. If water doesn’t drain, unplug power cord and bail or siphon out water.

Dishwasher overflowing

Turn off dishwasher. Turn off dishwasher water valve under sink. Turn on dishwasher and let it run to empty water. If water doesn’t drain, shut off power and bail or siphon out water.

Water heater, washing machine, dishwasher, or garbage disposer leaking

Turn off unit. Unplug power cord without touching the unit or shut off power. Turn off water supply or close main shutoff valve. Bail or siphon out water.

Water on floor from leaking or overflowing appliance

Unplug power cord or shut off power before mopping the water. Dam area around water with washable, absorbent rags. Clean with mop or towels.

Basement flooded

Close main shutoff valve. Mop up, bail or shovel water. For ½ inch or less use a wet shop vacuum. For more than ½ inch use a sump pump.

Ceiling sagging from weight of flooded water

Poke a hole with a large nail and catch water in a bucket

Electronic unit is flooded

Do not touch unit or any plumbing fixture. Dry yourself if you are wet. Shut off power at service panel, then, unplug unit power cord from wall outlet. Dry unit with absorbent cloth and hair dryer.

Electrical Emergencies

Child or adult victim of electrical shock

Push victim away with a wooden spoon, broom handle, or chair. Treat victim for injuries and call for help

Switch sparking or hot to the touch

Turn off switch using a wooden spoon or wooden broom handle.

Arcs and sparks at service panel

Do not touch service panel. Call to have power turned off or call an electrician.

Cord or plug discolored, hot, or melting

Shut off power at service panel. Unplug cord using a towel. Call an electrician.

Appliance, lamp, or electronic unit gives off sparks or shock user

Unplug cord without touching appliance or unit, or shut off power at service panel and unplug unit. Take appliance or unit for service.

Appliance excessively hot

Shut off power at service panel, then unplug appliance from wall outlet. Clean appliance as instructed in service manual or take it for service.

Beverage or other foreign material spilled into electronic unit

Unplug unit power cord from wall outlet. Dry unit with absorbent cloth and hair dryer if wet, or clean the components.

Small appliance falls in sink or bathtub

Do not touch appliance or any plumbing fixture. If you are dry, pull out cord or shut off power at service panel and unplug appliance. Take appliance for service.

Large appliance or outlet submerged or wet

Do not enter room. If conditions around service are dry, turn off power at service panel; otherwise, leave house and call power company.

Power failure

Turn all appliances with motors or heating elements including furnace, air conditioner, heater, washer, and dryer to prevent overloading system when power is restored.

Check service panel. If main circuit breaker has tripped or main fuses have blown, call an electrician or power company to inspect system.

Have emergency supplies on hand including a small space heater and lantern, flashlight, or candles. A portable generator can provide a limited amount of emergency power.

Leave several lights on so that you know when power has been restored.

Lightning storm

Unplug electronic devices or use surge suppressor to protect them. Be careful near windows, doors, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, sinks, and pipes.

Gas Emergencies

Pilot light out in gas appliance

Relight pilot

Odor of escaping gas

Ventilate room. Do not touch electrical outlets or switches and extinguish all flames.

Check pilots of all gas appliances and relight.

Leave house and call gas company if odor persists

Heating and Cooling Emergencies

No heat due to clogged air filter in air distribution system

Clean or replace filter

No heat due to faulty thermostat

Call for service

No AC due to clogged drain line

Pour 2-3 cups of vinegar in the drain line. Call for service if the AC doesn’t start. Here is a video on where to pour the vinegar and how to clean the drain line.

Plumbing Emergencies

Small object dropped down sink

Do not run water in sink. Carefully remove the drain trap under sink. Have a bucket ready.

Faucet burst or fixture leaking or overflowing

Turn off faucet if possible. Close shutoff valves at fixture or close main shutoff valve.

Supply pipe leaks

Close main shutoff valve. Patch hole temporarily with duct tape or hose clamp and bicycle inner tube.

Supply pipe bursts

Close main shutoff valve. Call plumber or utility company.

Supply pipe freezes

Turn up the heat in the house. Close the main shutoff valve and open the nearest faucet. Thaw with a hairdryer or heating tape.

Toilet blocked or overflowing

Do not flush. Use a plunger to unclog the drain. If it doesn’t help, call plumber.

If all toilets are overflowing call a plumber.

Sewage fumes

Check fixture traps to be sure they don’t run dry; run water to refill traps. Pour a bucket of water in basement floor to replenish house trap if any.

Sewage backs up into house

Call municipality

Possibility of water contamination from back-siphonage or pollution

Do not attempt flush out the supply lines yourself. Call local health department

First Aid Treatment

Burn or scald

Soak injury in cold water. Do not apply ointment or butter. If severe, cover with sterile gauze and seek medical help.

Refrigerant burn

Apply non-adhesive sterile gauze and seek medical help immediately.

Electrical burn

Soak injury in cold water and cover with sterile gauze if severe.

Seek medical attention immediately since electrical burns can cause internal injury.

Chemical splashed in eye

Flush eye with clean water for 10 minutes. Seek medical help.

Skin cut

Wrap cut with a clean, dry cloth, elevate cut and apply pressure until bleeding stops. Then, wash wound with soap and water and bandage with a sterile dressing.

Seek medical help if bleeding persists or wound is deep or gaping.

About the author

Jana Christo is a business owner, real estate investor, and property manager. She has 16 years of experience in most areas of real estate.
During the last recession, she was also the managing partner for a company that bought and rehabbed properties from the court foreclosure auctions. Today, she manages her own portfolio of rental properties and shares her experience on