Leaking kitchen sink not reported until damage was extensive- Who pays for repairs?

11 Replies

I have a sfh in NC that has been rented for a little less than a year. All pipes/plumbing were in working order when rented. Today I received a complaint that the the pipe under the kitchen sink has a leak and apparently has been leaking long enough to cause mold and the floor underneath to rot. Is this entirely the landlord's responsibility or is the tenant also partially responsible for damages for being negligent? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

IMO, landlord.  We don't store anything under our sink; I can't remember the last time I opened that door.  Why would I?

Plumbing leaks are on the landlord.

Here is a statement in my contract that holds tenants responsible if they knowingly ignore and don't report water damage.  However, I would be lenient depending on the circumstance and do what is necessary to get it resolved correctly.

NOTICE OF DEFECT:Lessee agrees to notify the Lessor or his agent, in writing, of any defects in, or complaints about the leased premises including any and all plumbing leaks and failed caulking around tub. Tenant will be required to pay for damages resulting from leaks unreported in a timely fashion. In the event emergency repairs are necessary, lessee shall notify agent by telephone and immediately follow up with a written complaint in order that the Lessor may be adequately and legally be notified of the lessee’s complain.The resident understands that they will receive no rent deductions, adjustments or compensation due to repairs or interruptions of service except as provided by law.

How are you going to prove "knowingly ignore?"

I'm sure the tenant may be somewhat responsible, but at the end of the day you can't prove it so your on the hook. 

@Account Closed  

These things happen; it's just the cost of doing business. If it's just the cabinet bottom that needs replacing, it's not too big a job. 

Thanks for all the input everyone, it certainly helps to see that its simply a part of the business, a lot of this is all new to me. I saw the damage for myself tonight and it was quite apparent that they do use the storage space under the sink for cleaning supplies. It was not a plumbing issue but it appears the rubber seal that connects the dishwasher hose to the plumbing pipes had been knocked loose or off and flooded the area and ignored for quite a while, unfortunately there is no cabinet floor and it flooded the subfloor to the kitchen. It has saturated and molded the surrounding cabinets (part of a 10x3 kitchen island) and part of the drywall on the opposite side of the island. I am going tomorrow to remove the damaged parts and see what needs to be replaced, but again any input would be appreciated. 

That's going to depend on your rental/lease agreement. If you have a proper check in/out sheet that they signed off on all plumbing on AND if you have a section stating that the tenant must notify you of any maintenance issues as soon as they are discovered then you can technically hold them responsible for it. However, remember that most landlord tenant laws are not actually laws, they're based on case precedence. Ultimately you have to think if its something a judge would allow, not whether its strictly "legal or illegal." 

Also remember that you are not operating in a vacuum here. If they are a good tenant that you want to keep you'll need to think about how they'll feel about it and how they might react. Is it worth it to you to loose a long term tenant and have turnover costs because you didn't want to eat the cost of fixing a few issues now? Only you know the tenant and the dollars involved, you'll just have to weigh the pros and cons. Good luck!

take it as a learning lesson. We inspect our units every 6 months, change smoke and carbon monoxide batteries and HVAC filters, and Thermostat batteries. I have a maintenance background so I learned early on there a reason most apartment complexes do this, we should too. Regardless its an easy fix, put a new cabinet bottom in, install lino over it (then if there's a small leak it wont rot the board) and reconnect the dishwasher hose. Be thankful it wasn't an upstairs unit.

Thanks again for all the input! I was definitely relieved when I saw the amount of damage and am planning to take this one as a small loss and warn them again shoving the large clear tub (that I'm pretty sure knocked the hose loose to begin with) in the space. This is my first SFH rental and I am learning many lessons for the future. Glad to have a community of experienced individuals to turn to for advice.

This is one reason why the landlord or PM needs to visit the property every so often.

I stop by every 45 days or so to change AC filters, and one thing I always do is to look under all drain pipes, as well as washer hose connections.  You really cannot rely on the tenants to report all damages on time.  They don't really care unless it adversely affect them.

In anticipation of tenants who have little respect for property (compared to an owner) I've installed water alarms in areas that can cause trouble: the lowest point on the floor under the washer, behind the toilet in the bathroom, and under the sink in the kitchen. Then add to the lease a statement something like 'occupants are not allowed to tamper with or disable moisture alarms' in addition to the usual language about notification of leaks. The water alarms are cheap and make a really annoying shrill sound when they go off, but not as loud as a smoke detector.

I don't allow my tenants to have their own clothes washer either. If they don't maintain their machine, then they aren't going to care about the floor/subfloor.

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.