Troubleshooting a Lack of Hot Water in Your Rental Property: A Tenant’s Guide

Hot water is a basic necessity in any home, providing comfort for daily activities such as showering, washing dishes, and doing laundry. When tenants find themselves without hot water, it can be inconvenient and disruptive to their daily routines. While some issues may be easily resolved by tenants themselves, others may require the intervention of a professional. In this guide, we’ll explore common reasons for a lack of hot water, steps tenants can take to diagnose the issue, and when it’s appropriate to submit a maintenance request to the landlord.

  1. Check the Water Heater

The first step in troubleshooting a lack of hot water is to inspect the water heater. Most residential properties use either a tank-type or tankless water heater.

a. Tank-Type Water Heater:

i. Pilot Light: If you have a gas water heater, check if the pilot light is lit. If it’s out, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to relight it. For electric water heaters, skip this step.

ii. Thermostat Settings: Ensure that the thermostat on the water heater is set to an appropriate temperature (around 120 degrees Fahrenheit or 49 degrees Celsius).

iii. Circuit Breaker: For electric water heaters, check the circuit breaker in your electrical panel. If it has tripped, reset it and monitor the water heater.

iv. Reset Button: Electric water heaters also have a reset button. Press it to reset the heating elements.

b. Tankless Water Heater:

i. Power Source: Check if the tankless water heater is receiving power. Ensure that the unit is plugged in or that the circuit breaker is not tripped.

ii. Error Codes: Tankless water heaters often display error codes. Refer to the manufacturer’s manual to identify and address any error codes.

iii. Flush the System: Mineral buildup in the heat exchanger can lead to reduced efficiency. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to flush the system.

  1. Inspect the Water Supply

Sometimes, the lack of hot water might not be a fault with the water heater itself but rather an issue with the water supply.

a. Cold Water Mixing: Check if there is a problem with cold water mixing with the hot water supply. This can happen if there is a faulty mixing valve. If applicable, inspect and replace the mixing valve if necessary.

b. Water Pressure: Low water pressure can affect the delivery of hot water. Ensure that the water pressure in your property is sufficient. If the pressure is low, contact your water utility provider.

  1. Evaluate Faucets and Fixtures

If the issue persists after inspecting the water heater and supply, it’s time to check the faucets and fixtures in your home.

a. Single Fixture or All Fixtures?: Determine if the lack of hot water is specific to one fixture or affecting all fixtures in the house. If it’s only one, the problem might be localized, such as a clogged pipe or a faulty faucet.

b. Aerator and Showerhead: Remove and clean the aerators on faucets and showerheads. Sediment buildup can impede water flow, affecting the delivery of hot water.

c. Check for Leaks: Inspect pipes and fixtures for any leaks. A leak can reduce water pressure and affect the overall performance of the hot water system.

  1. Assess Temperature Fluctuations

In some cases, tenants may experience hot water temperature fluctuations rather than a complete lack of hot water. This can be equally frustrating and may have various causes.

a. Anti-Scald Valve: Modern plumbing systems often include anti-scald valves to prevent burns. Check if the anti-scald valve is set at an appropriate temperature. Adjust it as needed.

b. Sediment Buildup: Sediment accumulation in the water heater can cause temperature fluctuations. If you have hard water, flushing the tank periodically can help prevent this issue.

c. Water Heater Size: If you consistently run out of hot water during peak usage times, it could be an issue of the water heater’s capacity. A larger or more efficient water heater may be necessary.

  1. When to Submit a Maintenance Request

If, after thorough inspection and troubleshooting, you are unable to identify or resolve the issue causing the lack of hot water, it’s time to involve your landlord. Here are some scenarios where submitting a maintenance request is appropriate:

a. Technical Issues: If the problem involves complex technical components of the water heater or requires specialized knowledge, it’s best to leave the resolution to a professional plumber or technician.

b. Landlord’s Responsibility: In many rental agreements, the maintenance and repair of major appliances, including water heaters, are the responsibility of the landlord. If the issue is beyond the tenant’s control or caused by normal wear and tear, it falls under the landlord’s purview.

c. Safety Concerns: If you suspect a safety issue, such as a gas leak or electrical problem with the water heater, it is crucial to involve professionals immediately. Do not attempt to fix such issues on your own.


A lack of hot water can be a frustrating experience for tenants, but by following these troubleshooting steps, many issues can be identified and resolved without the need for professional intervention. However, if the problem persists or is beyond your ability to fix, submitting a maintenance request to your landlord is the next appropriate step. Clear communication with your landlord will ensure that necessary repairs are conducted promptly, restoring the comfort of hot water to your rental property. Remember, a well-maintained and efficiently functioning water heater contributes to a more comfortable living environment for everyone.