Top 5 Things Every Condo Unit Owner and Apartment Renter Should Know

Many condo unit owners and apartment renters take steps to improve the safety of their unit both for their sake and the sake of their fellow tenants. But what many do not know is how to react if a safety hazard does occur.

Here is our list of the top 5 things every condo unit owner and apartment renter should know about their unit.

1. Know where you electrical panel is and how to turn it off.
The electrical panel, which should contain circuit breakers and hopefully not old fuses. In condos and apartments, the panel usually contains individual breakers for different electrical components of your unit, which are hopefully labeled accordingly (i.e. bedroom, dining room, bathroom). Switching the breakers to the "off" position shuts electricity to that zone off. This is important to do before doing any work that involves electricity, i.e. installing a light bulb, changing a receptacle, etc.)

2. Know where your smoke alarms are located and whether they are operable.
If your smoke alarms are 10 or more years old, the National Fire Protection Association highly recommends replacing them. Many times this is something that a unit owner or renter will not ask when they move in. Today's standards call for smoke alarms to be hardwired with battery backup in bedrooms, hallways and on each floor.

3. Know where to shut the gas off.
Generally speaking, you should ask your condo association or building management what to do in the instance of a gas leak from your fireplace, stove or water heater. These items usually have a separate gas shutoff valve and your condo association or building manager should be able to show you where, or check out the operation manuals.

4. Know how to turn off your hot water heater.
If you have a hot water leak, you need to know how and where to turn off the flow to your water heater. Turning off water flow by using the valve at the top of the water heater will stop the course of the hot water immediately. Another way to stop a hot water leak in the problem area is to turn on the flow of hot water somewhere else, like a shower or sink.

5. Know where water shutoff valves are.
Water damage is the number 1 cause of insurance claims in condo and apartment buildings, so water leaks are a huge concern. It may be important for you to know where the shutoff valves are for water supplies in case you are upgrading sinks, dishwashers and so forth, and also in case your toilet begins to run or other problems arise.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are working with any element of your unit that you are not comfortable with, contact your condo association, building management, or a professional.