Property Manager Story
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
by: Renato Vazquez, Kilroy Realty

Section: Trends and Tips

Million Dollar Flood

One of the most memorable experiences I have had in Property Management occurred 5 years ago.  I received a phone call from the building security at around 3:00AM on a Saturday morning, advising me that there was a flood in the building that began on the 18th floor, and water had been spotted all the way down to the ground floor.  As many managers can attest, these types of emergencies always have a tendency of occurring in the middle of the night or on a weekend, when there is no janitorial staff and minimal security at the building.

I rushed to the building to find one of the building engineers on the 17th floor standing in about 3 inches of water, trying to vacuum up whatever water he could.  As I made my way down floor by floor, there was an extensive amount of water damage on every single floor; affecting tenant spaces, common areas, and one of our emergency stairwells all the way down to the 1st floor.

That entire morning was spent reaching out to multiple remediation companies, as well as contacting all Tenants in the building to inform them of damage to their server rooms, furniture, and computer equipment, all while I had the baptism of one of my daughters taking place at 8:00AM that morning.

When the dust settled, we discovered that the flood was caused by an abandoned refrigerator water valve on the wall.  The valve was installed a decade prior, and the current Tenant had placed a refrigerator in front of the valve without using it.  The valve had plastic parts that over time wore out due to the pressure of the water coming up to the 18th floor.  While the leak only lasted about an hour before it was caught, it ended up causing $1 million dollars’ worth of damage.  There were three great lessons I learned during this situation that have helped me tremendously in my career:

  1. Water detection systems are priceless:  The cost of a water detection system pales in comparison to the costly expense of a flood.  I make sure to recommend the installation of these water detection systems at any property I manage which does not have them.
  2. Double-check all of your building water valves:  Whenever we have a tenant move out of a building, I make sure that our engineering staff not only ensures that all water lines are properly safe-off, but also to double check that none of the valves use plastic parts.  If there are any valves that we find with plastic valves we change them out immediately for all copper/metal valves.
  3. Hold off on cutting drywall out:  During the remediation, the remediation company cut out a large amount of drywall in our emergency stairwell.  This ended up creating a larger issue because by cutting out the drywall, we had inadvertently de-rated that stairwell.  We had a meeting with the fire department, in which they could have shut down the building due to the de-rated corridor.   Thankfully, we were able to keep the building open, however we had to maintain a fire watch around the clock, and the fire department found that the stairwell was out of code by seeing the exposed stairwell walls. They then made us bring the entire stairwell up to code via a permitted job with the City.  After this incident, I make sure to hold off on opening up walls, unless it is extremely necessary.

I hope no one ever has to go through a flood of this size, but if someone does, hopefully this story helps in navigating the situation a little better!