Last night I was driving to my parents house when one of my tenants called me. I knew something must have been wrong because we had already agreed on a time for me to pick up the rent, which meant he had no other reason to be calling me. Sure enough, he tells me that his mom just called him and said there was water coming down though the ceiling from the second floor. It's been very cold (close to 0 degrees) the past few days, so I feared the worst.
Luckily I happened to be very close to Bowers St and drove over there in a hurry. My truck was in the shop and I realized that I did not have the keys to the second floor on me -- I hoped someone was there and that I wouldn't have to break down the door. When I arrived, the second floor door was unlocked. There was 2" of water on the entire bathroom floor. There were no wet ceiling tiles on the second floor and I quickly ruled out a broken water pipe. When I went back downstairs, three guys from the fire department were there unplugging electrical stuff from around the wet areas. The tenant's mom called 911 after she called her son, not knowing that I would get there before the fire department did (how's that for response time!).
I couldn't figure out exactly what happened, but either the tub or the toilet overflowed. The tub had 3" of water in it and it wasn't draining out. The tenant that just moved into the second floor told me he took a shower a few hours earlier and noticed it wasn't draining. He said he tried using a plunger to unclog it, but when he was unsuccessful, he left it and went to work. Apparently, someone else must have used it after him and let it over flow.
After using a drain snake to try and unclog it, I discovered the problem: the trip lever and linkage system that holds up the plunger was gone. There was nothing holding up the plunger, so it was sitting at the bottom of the drain blocking it! By total luck, the drain snake caught onto part of the plunger and I was able to pull it out of the drain. Now the water drains perfectly.
If you've read this far, you're probably wondering where the "flames shooting out from behind a gas stove" comes in. Well, after cleaning up the water, I went downstairs and talked to the tenant's mom. She said she was sorry for calling 911 and that she didn't know I was going to get there so quick. She told me a story about how her previous landlord got angry at her for calling 911 when the old gas stove in her apartment caught on fire due to a gas leak (the landlord told her he would be there in 30 - 40 minutes, when he lived 10 minutes away). He replaced the stove with another used stove and told her he would hook it up himself (he didn't want to pay a licensed plumber). When he turned it on, the stove leaked gas and he was going to leave it that way. She threatened to sue and then he put a new stove in and had someone else hook it up.
That story made me realize why so many of my tenants appreciate having me as a landlord.