A Gas Leak Nightmare: How I Handled It From Far Away

“It smells like gas in here..” the call from my cleaner sent chills through my body. With my Airbnb 6 hours away and a 3-month guest moving in in a few hours, the heat was on to come up with a solution. In this post I’ll walk you through the chaos I faced and how the issue got resolved without driving away my guest.

Jumping Into Action…From 400 Miles Away

The first thing on my mind was to get the gas shut off. After contacting the municipally-run gas company, they were able to quickly shut it off. Simple enough…but that would turn out to be the easiest part of what seemed like the longest week of my life. Feeling helpless, I considered taking the next day off work and heading down to the house. I talked myself out of that, though, when I realized I would have no idea what to do in this situation even if I were there. I knew enough to know that gas leak situations are serious and are best left to professionals. My role would have to be one performed over the phone.

The next step was to get a plumber in to locate the leak. Around this time, the guest was checking in. She was a travel nurse starting her 3-month assignment at the local hospital. To add to the commotion of trying to juggle solving the mysterious gas leak and creating a great guest experience, I have to note that she was working the night shift. This, of course, meant that the day time was for sleeping…but it’s also when the contractors would need to be in-and-out of the house doing their work. To make things worse, I would come to find that most repair companies refused to enter a home where the only person inside was a sleeping young woman. This meant they’d have to wake her up with knocks at the door.

In handling this guest experience, my first step was to be transparent with her about the annoyance that was to come. As painful as it was to tell her that there would be somebody coming in and out of the house during the next couple of days, it was important to start the relationship off with complete transparency and sincere apologies. Luckily, she was completely understanding of the situation. She was just happy that the water heater was electric, allowing for post-shift showers.

One Thing After Another

After the plumbing company arrived the next day they informed me that the leak was coming from a flexible gas hose line attached to the furnace. After they finished “fixing” the problem, the municipal gas company returned to do their pre-turn-on test, only to let me know a string of more issues that would prevent the reinstatement of the gas service.

I will save you the trouble of reading through all of the steps that came next in trying to tackle this problem (I think I also blocked some details out of my memory as a stress response…) but know that over the next week, I had to send a different contractor or gas company worker into the house to do their work each day. It felt like I just couldn’t catch a break in the form of a competent gas repair company. I believe the fifth time was the charm, however, and I found a great company to take care of the whole issue and help get the gas turned back on.

This merry-go-round of trouble was not only taxing on my sanity but also my wallet. The issues drained the entirety of the earnings from the guest, but I chalked that up to the cost of doing business.

Keeping The Guest In Mind

During all of this chaos, I kept the habit of being as honest as possible with the guest. I let her know what was going on and offered a few times to pay for her to move to a new Airbnb or a hotel. My main goal was to create a good environment for this guest, even if it meant losing all revenue from this stay. When she insisted that she could tough it out, I made sure to send her little surprises to bring a little delight to her when she got home from a hard night of work; A gift card for dinner, an edible bouquet, and (of course) full daily refunds for the affected week of trouble. Each of these things showed the guest that I was on their side; that I truly understood how much of a pain-in-the-ass this problem would be for them. It was important for me to take off my “real estate investor” hat and embody my personal definition of hospitality: it is not a business or an industry. It is how you treat people.

The Happy Ending

After the most stressful week of my hosting career, I found peace in a few elements of the story.

  1. This happened in the Fall, just before the cold season, meaning the heat being off wasn’t a huge problem added to the mix.
  2. The guest’s stay was for 3 months, meaning the rough first week was just a blip in the grand scheme of her experience.
  3. I had improved the house for many guests to come.
  4. All of my efforts to remedy the problem with the guest in mind resulted in a 5 star review from her. It felt great knowing I was able to not only salvage the stay, but make it a great overall experience for the guest.
  5. I was able to solve the problem without ever making a trip to the house. This one impressed me!

In Summary

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about what could go wrong in my homes. Like…a LOT of time. I’ve come to realize that problems are bound to arise in any real estate venture and worrying about them won’t prevent them. It only adds extra stress. Rather, I use experiences like this one to add to my resilience and confidence in my ability to handle issues that arise.

I am grateful for my wonderful cleaner and her keen nose for gas. I am grateful that nobody was harmed from the gas leak. And I am grateful for this experience and the ability to share it with my readers.

Happy Hosting.

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