We can all agree that indoor plumbing is an indispensable amenity, but at the same time, plumbing problems can cause some of the worst damage to a home or rental. This is especially the case in Portland, where our wet Pacific Northwest climate combines with aging infrastructure to pose unique challenges. Pipes inside your rental unit and outside in the ground require diligent upkeep to keep them functioning smoothly. Proper plumbing maintenance can prevent costly repairs, preserve property value, and comply with local regulations. Here are our curated tips for how to keep your Portland rental’s plumbing in top shape.

Understanding Portland’s Plumbing Landscape

Portland’s plumbing systems are influenced by several factors:


The region’s abundant rainfall can lead to soil saturation, affecting underground pipes and increasing the risk of leaks and breaks.

Aging Infrastructure

Our city’s numerous historic neighborhoods are a big draw for visitors and renters, but they also come with their own set of unique problems. Because many properties in Portland are older, their plumbing systems may not meet modern standards and be more susceptible to wear and tear.

Local Regulations

Portland’s plumbing codes and standards must be adhered to, ensuring that any work done is up to code and inspected as required. Oregon law requires landlords to maintain habitable living conditions, including functional plumbing. Failure to do so can result in legal action or tenant compensation. Landlords also must disclose any known plumbing issues to prospective tenants, which prevents disputes and builds trust.

Routine Plumbing Maintenance Tasks

Regular maintenance can prevent minor issues from ballooning into major problems. Here are key tasks that should be part of your routine:

Inspect for Leaks

Regularly check for leaks in fixtures, pipes, and appliances. Look for damp spots, mold growth, or unusual water bills. Even a small leak can cause extensive water damage given enough time.

Test Water Pressure

Ensure that water pressure is within the recommended range (usually 40-60 psi). High pressure can strain pipes and fixtures, leading to leaks, while low pressure can indicate a blockage or other issues.

Clean Drains

Prevent clogs by regularly cleaning drains. Install strainers to catch debris, and encourage tenants to avoid pouring grease or harsh chemicals down the drain.

Inspect Water Heater

Check your water heater for signs of corrosion, leaks, and sediment buildup. Flushing the tank annually can extend its lifespan and improve efficiency. Set the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to keep water at a safe temperature, as well as reduce energy consumption.

Maintain Sump Pumps and French Drains

In basements or low-lying areas prone to flooding, ensure sump pumps or French drains are in good working order. Test them regularly, especially before the rainy season, to avoid costly water damage.

Inspect Outdoor Plumbing

Don’t overlook outdoor faucets, sprinkler systems, and drainage. Ensure proper winterization to prevent frozen pipes, which can burst and cause significant damage. You may also consider getting a sewer scope if you have not had one done in the past five years, to check for potential damage to the pipes underground that could become a costly and dangerous problem in the future.

Preparing for Plumbing Emergencies

There are few things more panic-inducing than a burst pipe suddenly pumping water into a living space. For tenants, the consequences of a plumbing emergency can range from expensive damage to personal belongings to the temporary loss of their living space while major damage is repaired. For landlords, a major plumbing incident can quickly rack up bills. Repairs, mitigating water damage, and treating for mold are all expected costs after a major water incursion. In addition, if the plumbing emergency is the result of neglected maintenance and your tenants are displaced during the repair period, you may have to pay for their lodging until they can move back into their rental.

However, proper preparedness can make the difference between a plumbing disaster and a lucky near-miss. Be sure to practice these three tips:

1. Educate Tenants on the Emergency Shutoff

Knowing how to turn off water at the source can quickly stem a major leak. However, if tenants don’t know where the main shutoff valve is, they may spend valuable minutes looking for it—and when it comes to water damage, every second counts. To prepare for a possible plumbing emergency, make sure your tenants know where the emergency shutoff is from the day they move into the rental.

2. Keep a List of Emergency Plumbers on Hand

It’s best if you can establish a relationship with an emergency plumber who can serve as your go-to any time one of your rentals needs help. In addition, you should ensure that tenants also have access to your preferred contact for dealing with plumbing emergencies to ensure they’re addressed as swiftly as possible.

3. Rely on Good Tenant Communication

Fostering a good relationship between yourself and your tenants isn’t just about creating a better experience for both of you. It also keeps the door open for tenants to come to you with concerns about problems they might otherwise not report, such as a dripping faucet or a slowly draining toilet. While seemingly minor, issues such as those can point toward potential issues down the road. When you practice good communication with your tenants, it’s far easier to work with them on maintaining and protecting your unit’s plumbing for the good of all.

Managing Plumbing Expenses

Plumbing maintenance can be costly, but proactive measures can save money in the long run. It helps to create a budget that puts money into regular maintenance, while also setting aside a fund to cover major plumbing emergencies if (or when) they happen.

It pays — literally — to use high-quality materials and hire reputable professionals, even if the upfront cost is higher. Working with materials and professionals you know you can trust gives you peace of mind that your maintenance and repairs will hold up to regular use. Cutting corners can lead to more frequent repairs and higher costs.

In addition, you may want to consider spending more to upgrade to energy-efficient fixtures and appliances. This can reduce water and energy bills, offering long-term savings, as well as appeal to Portland’s eco-conscious renting demographic.

Plumbing Issues Are Stressful — Work With The Property Pros

Don’t let plumbing issues disrupt your peace of mind or your tenants’ comfort. Partner with Rent Portland Homes Darla Andrew’s Office to handle all your plumbing maintenance needs.

With years of experience in the Portland area, we have built strong connections with trusted plumbing professionals who can keep your rental in top shape. Our comprehensive property management services include regular inspections, preventive maintenance, and prompt emergency response, ensuring your property’s plumbing is always in top condition. To hear more about how we can safeguard your property investment, call us at (503) 515-3170 or reach out on our website.