Who pays for blocked toilet repair?

17 Replies

My tenant notified me of a backed up toilet. I called the plumer who attemped to snake the toilet but was unsucessful as there was something stuck in the toilet so firmly that he was unable to move it. We ended up having to replace the toilet since the object was unmovable. We were not ever able to get the object out ot the toilet so therefore were unable to identify the exact object that caused the blockage.  This is the first plumbing issue we have ever had in the house in the 8 years o owning it. My current tenant has been in the house for 7 month prior to the clog. The lease states "Tenant shall pay for repair of any drain blockage or stoppages, unless caused by defective plumbing parts or tree roots invading sewer line." She is refusing to pay. My question is who is responsible? Yes, we could not tell the exact object that caused the blockage but it was still blocked and not due the faultly plumbing. Thanks

I did one of these recently and the object of blockage appeared when we broke the toilet up into a hundred pieces in the dumpster.  It was a pumice sponge the 2 years old flushed.  Fit perfectly in the trap!  Because I did the work myself, got the toilet for free on craigslist and she is a single mom, I didn't charge her.  I bet it turned into a $300 bill for you?  If you can still break the toilet, I would do it.  Good luck @Ciara Smith !

Originally posted by @Ciara Smith :

My tenant notified me of a backed up toilet. I called the plumer who attemped to snake the toilet but was unsucessful as there was something stuck in the toilet so firmly that he was unable to move it. We ended up having to replace the toilet since the object was unmovable. We were not ever able to get the object out ot the toilet so therefore were unable to identify the exact object that caused the blockage.  This is the first plumbing issue we have ever had in the house in the 8 years o owning it. My current tenant has been in the house for 7 month prior to the clog. The lease states "Tenant shall pay for repair of any drain blockage or stoppages, unless caused by defective plumbing parts or tree roots invading sewer line." She is refusing to pay. My question is who is responsible? Yes, we could not tell the exact object that caused the blockage but it was still blocked and not due the faultly plumbing. Thanks

 break the toilet! 

Unfortunatley, the toilet is long gone so there is no way to tell what it was.  I have the plumber's word that is was caused by an object in the toilet and not faulty plumbing.

What does your lease say?

(2) Landlord will NOT pay to repair the following items unless caused by Landlord’s negligence: (a) conditions caused by Tenant, an Occupant, or any guest or invitee of Tenant; (b) damage to doors, windows, and screens; (c) damage from windows or doors left open; (d) damage from wastewater stoppages caused by foreign or improper objects in lines that exclusively serve the Property;

I assume the toilet was working fine when the tenants moved in and at the stoppage is just located in the toilet, then this is something that was caused by the tenant or a guest and at the tenants responsibility.

The only time we would charge an owner for clog is if the sewer line is collapsed and is usually evident by roots or mud in the line.

If the sewer line is fine and any clogs are deemed the tenants responsibility.

The lease states "Tenant shall pay for repair of any drain blockage or stoppages, unless caused by defective plumbing parts or tree roots invading sewer line."

 The blockage was definitely in the toilet not in the sewer lines. The toilet worked fine when she moved in 7 months earlier.

Your lease should stipulate a dollar amount that you expect the tenant to absorb for minor plumbing fixes. 

This of course did not appear to be minor, but, at least you would have a dollar amount that they are responsible for.

I have mine set in leases at $60 and utilize a home warranty service for these fixes and other coverages.

The home warranty service fee is $75 per call plus my contracted yearly cost.

Medium stml logoLinval T., STML Housing Solutions, LLC | [email protected] | 678‑922‑2477 | http://www.stmlhousing.com | NY Agent # 40TA0997583

Let me tell you of a similar issue and what I did.  Tenant came back from vacation and brought bed bugs home.  Retired military, he has been a solid tenant for 3 years.  He asked us to pay.  I made it very clear that it was his responsibility as called out in the lease, but since he has been a good tenant I would cover $100 of the expense.($300 total)  He got a win, I keep a solid tenant happy.  My PM firm took care of the maintenance and we will add it to his rent.

Things to consider in your case:

-Is the tenant worth losing or worth setting this precedent with?  Remember there is a cost of vacancy, turn, unhappy tenant.  There is also a cost to training your tenant that they are not responsible for items they break.  As usual, its a judgement call.

The tenant had been in the house for 7 months prior to the clog. And the plumber determined that the stoppage was in the toilet. It is clearly her responsibility to pay. 

Hopefully your lease states that repairs, etc are paid for first with her rent money, then it is applied to rent. This will cause late fees to happen. You should explain this to her.

You can also take the cost out of her security deposit, if you absolutely have to. But, this is a last resort, because you won't have as much security deposit to use once she moves out.

Based on your lease it sounds like it's on the tenant. 

Had that happen a couple of times with the same tenant on a bath tub drain. Plumber made 2 calls(which i paid for)snaked out drained for day then stopped up again. called the third time and I went over and took the drain and trap apart before I called plumber; found a toy car in the trap the plumber apparently missed. Plumber also told me he had taken trap apart. Charged tenant for first call had to eat 2nd

@Ciara Smith to me the tenant pays. Now that said, how far are you willing to go. Does your lease contain a clause allocating money received to money owed first and rent last?

If so you can pay the bill with the money they sent you for rent and post notice for unpaid rent and then file for eviction for the unpaid rent if she doesn't pay up. That might get her to pay up. Does she have the money? If not, then it's really a mute point. Next time get a better tenant or be ready to eat these sort of costs. Whether or not you can take this to the wall is something you need to consider. What is the value of your time? What is the likelihood you will win in court (despite being absolutely correct)? You know courts don't always to the right thing. They sometimes do what the judge thinks is fair.

All that said, you live in the great state of CA so you should be absolutely sure about what you can and can't do. Might be best to ask your local landlord/tenant attorney what the courts would say.

I would say in many cases it would be hard to win this in court and actually get an eviction from it.

Since you requested payment, you now have to figure out how to move forward. Are you willing to take them to the wall. If not, how do you bow out gracefully while maintaining control and saving your face?

I would say that since the plumber took the toilet and I can't prove it was your stuff that blocked it, then I will forego the charge this time. Next time, it's on you and I will have the plumber break the toilet and we will have proof.

Medium rre 1to1 small sizeBill S., Reliant Real Estate, Inc. | 720 207‑8190

Originally posted by @James Miller :

Had that happen a couple of times with the same tenant on a bath tub drain. Plumber made 2 calls(which i paid for)snaked out drained for day then stopped up again. called the third time and I went over and took the drain and trap apart before I called plumber; found a toy car in the trap the plumber apparently missed. Plumber also told me he had taken trap apart. Charged tenant for first call had to eat 2nd

 i never have this problem. tubs and sinks get this.

Emotionally I think the plumber does.  But that's his job so I guess he is used to it.

Get documentation from the plumber saying it was not faulty plumbing and take that to the tenant. Tack the charges onto their ledger.

They should pay for it.

In the future, break the toilet. We do this every time this issue comes up. I've seen some weird stuff, credit cards, etc... haha

But as long as you get documentation from the plumber you should be fine. That takes the pressure off of you, because you have a 3rd party licensed professional saying that it was not faulty plumbing. You have to rely on what they say, because they are the professional.

If you let them go this time , you set the precident for the next time.

Wonder if it was a fishing bobber ...

Make sure you get something in writing from the plumber that says the plug was in the toilet.  

Then, you ask the tenant for the money.  Sounds like you may have done this already, but be sure you have done this.  In writing.  Keep copies of all written communications.  Try to get the tenant to respond in emails.  If they do it with texts, see if you can print out transcripts.

Then, follow up with something in writing that says this will be deducted from their security deposit, if they don't pay it.

Then, when their lease terminates, be sure you do everything right regarding their initial move out inspection.  I'm assuming this is in CA. You need to give them a written notice of their right to a pre-move out inspection, called an "initial inspection."  

Do everything right, do an inspection and give them a written list of things they have to do.  Include that they owe you for the cost of the new toilet, etc.  YOu have to give them a list of things to do to get their full deposit back.

Then, send them their deposit and/or list of deductions within 21 days.  Be sure you include the receipts, including the receipt for the toilet blockage.

Then, if they decide to sue you over their deposit, you should be in good shape.

Read especially the blue section regarding initial inspections:

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/se...