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How Georgia renters can deal with burst pipes, next freeze

The freezing temperatures have wreaked havoc on water pipes across metro Atlanta.

DECATUR, Ga. — Hundreds of residents in metro Atlanta are struggling with freezing temperatures.

People have posted videos on social media showing flooding in malls, offices and apartment buildings.

Tenants have expressed increased frustration as they said they prepared for the arctic blast and are now struggling with the aftermath.

“All this water is just pouring down the stairs," Brad Waugh said, "Pouring down the wall; pouring down the stairs."

Waugh lives with his wife live at the Decatur Highlands apartments off Clairmont Road in Decatur where they said frozen pipes burst and flooded multiple units on Christmas Eve.

“We started having water coming through our ceiling," Waugh added.

Waugh’s neighbor – who didn’t want to be identified – had it much worse.

“It was pouring down like a water hose in several parts of the apartment and at that time all of my furniture was saturated and I was walking in 3 to 4 inches of water,” said the tenant.

She says all of her clothing and belongings were soaked and because of the damage, she couldn’t stay in her unit.

“I work from home I’m worried about my job - I don’t have a place to live so I don’t have a place to work,” said the tenant.

She said the units above her are vacant with no heat turned on and says the maintenance team told her the sprinkler system froze– causing some pipes to burst.

“I was told the sprinkler system froze in the attic,” said the tenant.

She said she’s now left throwing everything out, filing an insurance claim and staying with a friend.

“This is just stuff and I’m trying to keep everything in perspective,” the tenant said.

11Alive reached out to Decatur Highlands management which didn’t respond directly to questions about the tenant's situation, but sent a statement saying it was aware the pipes had burst and "immediately after notification, we addressed the situation, including engaging third-party vendors to mitigate the damage."

Both tenants said they followed the guidelines to keep their pipes from bursting like opening cabinets under sinks.

“We kept our heat up pretty high and kept a few faucets dripping,” Waugh said.

The other tenant said they've kept their heat at 75 degrees since last Thursday.

Both say the units above them are vacant and the maintenance crew told them the sprinkler system froze.

Rob Sherrell with Ironwood Insurance said disasters like this highlight the importance of adequate renters insurance.

With so many people making claims right now, many adjusters could be backed up, so here’s what Sherrell advises:

  • Don’t throw anything out right away. Photograph all of the damage and take videos of it too.
  • Document all communication with your management company.
  • Keep all receipts for any mitigating services you employ, like carpet cleaning or water removal.
  • Make sure you read your lease and understand your responsibility.

Another tip to keep in mind, empty your pipes. If you leave town before a freeze we’ve all heard you should turn your water off- but don’t forget to then run the water to empty the pipes. If there’s any water left inside, it can still freeze and bust a pipe open.

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