Past Midway Ramblings on Business & Life

4-Plex – Flood

Part 4 of a 5-part series…

This is a continuation of the story about the 4-plex we owned in Austin, TX. The one with the crystal meth, swarming bees, grow lights, electricity theft & spy cameras.

Same property.

Water Damage

We also had a flood. Not the natural kind where a stream crests its bank during a heavy rain and water creeps in the front door. No. We had the toilet kind. Overflowed for 6 – 8 hours before someone called me. Unfortunately, this toilet was upstairs, which meant it was raining downstairs… through the ceiling. Nasty rain.

I came straight from work, in my suit. I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves and put my cell phone in my front shirt pocket. High ground. When I reached down to turn off the water valve, my phone slipped out and plopped directly into the toilet. That was a nice touch.

One would think after running 6 hours, the toilet water would be clear. Somehow not. Wanting to react quickly, I went in bare-handed. This day was getting worse.

Later that afternoon, our insurance provider said I wasn’t covered for water damage. I have since learned that denial of coverage is the automatic first response. When I asked why they itemized “water damage” on my policy statement with an additional premium next to it, the insurance agent said, “Why don’t you bring in a copy of your statement and I’ll have a look.” I did. He did. I was “covered”.

I use “covered” in quotes because it’s different from actually covered.

Actually covered would mean that I pay some reasonable deductible and the insurance company pays the remainder.

In my case, “covered” meant the insurance company would pay for the depreciated value as opposed to replacement value. Fine print. Since the sheetrock, carpet, paint, cabinets, light fixtures and pretty much everything else had depreciated to zero, they had no value according to the insurance company.1 The water damage from this toilet overflow cost us about $30,000 in remediation and repairs.


Fortunately, I had a really talented guy do the repairs with a keen eye for details. He asked me to join him in the room where he was working so he could show me something. When he pulled back the baseboard, termites scurried about. Nice of him to show me that.

But wait, there’s more…

When a worker on the same renovation team removed the sheetrock in the living room, he made a full-on sprint for the front door. Upon returning, he showed me why. The whole wall was full of honeycomb structures. Luckily, there were no bees left (see Part 2 of this saga), but they had been living in the wall, between the sheetrock and the exterior, probably for years. It was fortunate no one accidentally punched a hole in that wall.

I previously wrote about off-model risks. This falls into that category.2

We’ll pause the story here for now, with a final comment… once renovations were complete from the water damage, those two units looked great. We remodeled them nicely – upgraded carpet with thick padding, new cabinets, new countertops and designer two-tone colors throughout. Again, this was part of the overall, long-term strategy of upgrading the quality and visual appeal of the property. I wanted the place to be nicer.

Part 5, the last in this series, holds an interesting twist. The value of 4-plex might surprise you.

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  1. If you have insurance for water damage on your property, check on this.
  2. When considering the pros and cons of buying investment property, no one writes “tenant death from excessive bee stings, lawsuit from owner negligence” as a viable risk. But there it was.


By Andy Jones
Past Midway Ramblings on Business & Life

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