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Maintenance Questions


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Garbage Disposals

Garbage Disposal Doesn’t Work

If your garbage disposal suddenly stops working, 99% of the time the problem is an object is jammed inside the gears. If you turn on the switch and hear the hum of the motor, the garbage disposal is working but probably jammed. Try pressing the reset button on the bottom of the disposal. You can also use a wrench to turn the disposal gears (from under the unit, with unit unplugged). This will usually free the lodged item and then it can be removed with pliers. Then plug the disposal back in and run, flushing with water.
Never run the disposal without a steady flow of cool water going into the drain! A disposal is not designed to be packed full of food and then run. Any food that can be thrown in the trash should go in the trash (seeds, chicken bones or skin, potato peels, egg shells, etc.). The disposal is best used only for liquid products, and anything non-liquid will likely cause a jam.

Garbage Disposal Smells

Run plenty of cold water down the disposal and drop in a handful of ice cubes. Ice cubes will help remove food particles that may be stuck in the gears. When the ice cubes are ground, drop lemon slices into the disposal (continue running water) and grind up the lemon. This will remove the old food odors.

Electrical

No Power To An Outlet

You may have tripped a breaker if you are suddenly without power to a section of outlets or lights in the house. If you are in an apartment, there usually will be a small electrical panel inside; or, if a home, the main panel is usually located outside the house or in the garage. Open the cover of the electrical panel and look for a switch that is not in alignment with the other switches. A switch that is in the halfway position is tripped. Flip the switch (or switches) back to the on position, close the cover, and see if this resolves the problem. If not, return to the panel and flip the main breaker (usually separate from the multiple circuit breaker) to the off position. This will shut of and reset all the circuits in the apartment or house. After a couple seconds turn it back on.

If this does not work, look for a GFCI outlet that has tripped. These outlets are usually found in the kitchen and bathroom, though it’s not uncommon for a GFCI to be in another room or even the garage. Often people move in and place furniture over the GFCI outlet, not realizing they may need to access that outlet. If your home is equipped with exterior outlets, they may also have a GFCI. Just because your kitchen outlets have lost power, it doesn’t guarantee that the GFCI is in the kitchen. Make a thorough search throughout the house and reset all GFCIs.

If this resolves your outage, likely you have too many electronic devices plugged into a circuit. Microwaves and blow dryers draw high wattage and should never be operated on the same circuit at the same time.

Light Won’t Come On

Turn off the wall switch and change the light bulb. If you have a toggle switch with multiple access points (ie,. light switch at base of stairs and at top of stairs toggles on same light) make sure that one of the switches is not in the halfway position.

Smoke Detector

Smoke Detector Beeping

Most smoke detectors will beep intermittently (ie., every two minutes) if the battery is low and needs to be changed. It’s a good habit to change the batteries in all your smoke detectors once a year…doing it every Christmas is a good way to remember. If your rental is equipped with 10-year detectors, then please let us know as the unit itself may need to be replaced.

Kitchen Faucet & Plumbing

Pull-Out Faucet Is Leaking

Most pull-out faucets need to be tightened at the base where the wand and metal flex hose join. If the faucet is leaking from this area, you’ll be able to clearly see it by pulling the wand from the keeper and turning on the water. Simply hand-tighten to screw the flex hose tighter to the wand.
Water Leak Under The Sink

If you have a very occasional leak in the under-sink cabinet, it may be coming from your kitchen faucet or a split in the caulking around the sink.

If you have a pull-out faucet, follow the steps above to ensure the wand and hose are tightened and there is no leak. The wand keeper is hollow pipe, so if the flex hose is loose from the base it will drip back under the sink. Another common problem encountered with pull-out faucets is when the spray feature is engaged, it is easy to spray water down the keeper.

A poor grout seal around the base of the sink can easily cause water to seep under in time. If you look up toward your sink base from the cabinet beneath and see signs of water seepage around the edges, your sink should be re-caulked.

If you have a sudden leak spilling several cups to gallons of water under the sink and have a garbage disposal, you may have an “unseated” disposal. If a hard object is stuck in the garbage disposal gears, it’s possible the disposal came loose from the mounting under the sink drain. The change may be rather imperceptible, but open the sink cabinet and see if the disposal is visibly leaking from the union of the disposal and sink drain. Also, if the disposal is not level (visibly shifted right or left), it is not seated properly. Some disposals can be tightened back in place by hand, though others require special tools.

Toilets

Toilet Stopped Up

Try using a plunger. Assuming that no foreign objects have been flushed, it’s likely there is a clog of toilet paper in the line. Keep a plunger in the house and repeated use to the affected toilet will usually push the product through the line.
NEVER flush condoms, sanitary napkins, paper towels, or tampons! They WILL NOT clear the main sewer line and you will definitely clog the drain eventually. When this happens it will usually affect every drain in the house simultaneously, and you will not even be able to flush or shower.

Toilet Won’t Stop Running

It’s possible the chain has fallen off the handle inside the tank. Lift the lid of the tank and see if there is a chain attached to the backside of the flushing handle. Sometimes the chain, if a bit long, will fall down or into the flapper and disrupt the seal from tank to toilet. This also will cause a slight leak from the tank so the water will continually run to keep the tank level full.

Toilet Takes Forever To Refill

The valve at the wall may not be open all the way. You also may have low water pressure at the property.

Toilet Is Leaking On The Floor

Turn off the valve at the wall and clean up the water so the floor is not damaged.

Garage Doors

Door Won’t Close All The Way

Most garage doors have safety sensors so if a child or pet stands in the entrance of the door, the door will stop. Often storage items in the garage can create a blockage that triggers the sensors. Check to be sure that there is a good clearance area around the perimeter of the garage door.

Door Won’t Open

If using a remote, install a new battery to see if that resolves the problem. Check the switch inside the garage to see if it works. Make sure the door opener isn’t set to “Manual.” And, make sure the door has not been locked. Some openers can lock the door at the opener as well as some doors have side or front locks. If you have a garage door opener and physically lock the door itself, you will burn out the motor trying to open it.

Dishwashers

Dishes Don’t Get Clean

If you run a load through the dishwasher and find residue throughout the “clean” dishes, run the dishwasher through an empty cycle with detergent. Food particles do get trapped inside the line and filters and can be redistributed back into the load.
Another common problem causing intermittent “dirty” clean dishes is running the dishwasher too full. Try reducing the number of dishes in a load to see if results improve.

Low water pressure also can create less than perfect cleansing. If you have low pressure, run the dishwasher during the day when no other water is being consumed throughout the house. If you run the dishwasher when a shower or sprinklers are in use, you will further lower the hot water and/or pressure available to the dishwasher.

Soap Stays In The Dishwasher

Never use dish soap in the dishwasher! Only use a labeled dishwasher tablet or powdered detergent. If you pre-rinse your dishes and use a soap like Palmolive or Dawn, residue may stay on the dishes and it will clog your dishwasher.

Cascade powder or Cascade Complete are recommended by most appliance companies as the best product for dishwashers.

Hot Water

I Have No Hot Water

Have you contacted PG&E to start your gas or electric account? If so, did they physically connect gas or electrical service to your unit? As a safety precaution PG&E will some times turn the gas or electrical “main” off if they start service and can not access the inside of the home to do a safety check. Call PG&E and check with them.
If your water heater is gas and the home has been vacant for a time, it is possible that the pilot light needs to be lit on the water heater. PG&E provides this service at no cost and they will safety check the water heater as well.

If you live in a complex with a shared water heater system, ask one of your neighbors if they have the same problem. Wait about 20 minutes and see if the water is warm. If four or five people in a small complex shower at the same time, it is possible that there will be a delay in getting hot water until the community water heater(s) have refilled and heated. Most water heaters will reheat enough water within 20 minutes to resupply the building.

Heater

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Furnace filters should be replaced every 90 days or sooner, depending on the frequency use of the furnace/air conditioner. This is the responsibility of the renter to perform this standard maintenance if your filter located in a reachable spot. We will reimburse you the cost of the filter up to $12 per filter if you send us the receipt. If you can not reach your filter please call us! Any damage to the furnace caused by neglect is the renter’s financial responsibility per your lease.

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My Heater Won’t Come On

If you have a gas furnace, have you contacted PG&E to start your gas account? If so, did they physically connect gas service to your unit? As a safety precaution PG&E will some times turn the gas “main” off if they start service and can not access the inside of the home to do a safety check. Call PG&E and check with them. Also, if this is the first time in the season you’ve tried to start the heater, you may need to light the pilot light. PG&E also provides this service at no cost and they safety-check the gas appliances at the same time.

My Heater Smells Like It’s Burning

The first time or two you run the heater for the season, it is normal to smell a mild burning odor. When the heater hasn’t been used for a while, dust will accumulate in the system. As the heater starts to run and warm up the dust, there is a mild odor that will decrease after the first few uses. Also, if you have not regularly changed your furnace filters (every three months is recommended), you should change the filter now to reduce the amount of dirt and dust getting into the furnace’s air flow.

If your heater is smoking (physical smoke from the unit or vents) that is another matter entirely. Shut down the heater immediately and call the appropriate entity (PG&E, fire department, etc.)

Emergencies

What if there is an emergency? Whom do I call?

What we constitute an emergency is a fire, flood, gas leak, domestic issue, etc. Your first phone call should be to the appropriate civil authority or service provider. If there is smoke or fire, call 911. PG&E should be called for any potentially hazardous gas situation at (800) 743-5000. They provide 24-hour service for emergencies. Any domestic dispute, disruption, or safety concern should be brought to the attention of the police, either by calling 911 or the local police non-emergency number (provided in the first few pages of your local phone book).

Urgent problems can be called in to our service office at (408) 354-4700. Use the menu for Westside Property Management. This number provides a 24-hour voicemail for emergency messages. If you are ever in the situation where you need to call the police, fire, or PG&E, we need to be notified as a secondary point of reference.

If you have a burst sprinkler in the yard shooting water at 9 pm at night, you will need to turn off the water to that sprinkler. If you are not mechanically inclined, the closest available help would likely be a neighbor. We recommend that all renters make some contact with their neighbors and get to know someone close by. Most urgent problems can be addressed within 24 hours. We do have after-hours staff though their availability is limited, and we can not guarantee someone can be on site to immediately assist you.

If you have an emergency and need to speak to a live person, call (408) 685-8050. Please do not use this number unless you have first been unable to reach the service office.