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Judd Campbell's profile image
  • from Georgetown, Kentucky
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Judd Campbell's profile image
  • from Georgetown, Kentucky
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Judd Campbell
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Tenant keeps putting cooking grease down the drain

Judd Campbell
  • Georgetown, KY
Posted Nov 16 2016, 05:44

I have a 4-unit building built in the late 70's.  All the units have hispanic families in them.  over the last year I have had to have a plumber unclog the kitchen sink for 3 of the families.  One guy texted me just last week and mentioned that his sink is backing up again. 3x in the last year.  The plumber has told me it was cooking grease in the lines, he spins the snake quickly when he feels the grease then runs hot water down the drain, that seems to open it up for a few months.  I have told the tenants that they need to only put water down the sink but I can see lots of cooking pans full of grease sitting in and around the sinks when I arrive.  I have informed the tenant that per their lease they are responsible for drain clogs.  he said he will not fix it and he is not going to be responsible for an overflow since he told me about it.  He has been in this unit for 3 years and his parents are next door (have been there for 7 years)  They have gardens planted out back and they have no desire to move, I would like to keep them but I can't keep paying $169 to fix the sink drains.  I have told him to put boiling water and dawn soap down the pipes but I have not heard back.  

Thoughts? 

Michaela G.'s profile image
  • Investor
  • from Atlanta, Georgia
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Michaela G.'s profile image
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Michaela G.
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Michaela G.
  • Investor
  • Atlanta, GA
Replied Nov 16 2016, 06:05

Are you sure that it's them doing this? I have a house that I bought as REO in 2010 and I always had problems with the drain backing up. Head all kinds of solutions, usually including tearing up the whole concrete driveway, under which the drain pipe runs.

I also know that the previous owner, before foreclosure, had problems with the drain. 

Turns out that a 20' section under the house was completely full of grease. A snake or jet would just make a little hole and that would fill in again within a few weeks. So, obviously, it's something that had been there for years and we all just kept putting on a bandaid, instead of healing the wound. 

So, it sounds as if you have a similar situation and that snaking it out 3 times a year just makes a small hole, but doesn't fix the problem. The snake will not clear out the grease and hot water won't dissolve it. If you know where the problem is you might want to consider replacing that section, so that you're starting off with a clean slate. 

I kept paying $ 250 for snaking and then I ended up paying my handyman $ 250 to replace the line and I realize that I should have done that all along, if I had just know what the problem actually is.

Kim Meredith Hampton's profile image
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Kim Meredith Hampton's profile image
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Kim Meredith Hampton
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Kim Meredith Hampton
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Replied Nov 16 2016, 06:12

@juddcampbell, have they run a camera down the line? This would be a sure fire way to find out what's in there, and how much

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Gerald Peters's profile image
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Gerald Peters's profile image
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Gerald Peters
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Gerald Peters
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  • Huntsville, TX
Replied Nov 16 2016, 06:15

I had similar issue but ultimately was roots in the lines and grease combined every few months I'm calling plumber. $3000 latter we replaced pipes from house to city all good for last couple yrs. could be more then just grease.

Also they have a lease I assume? The moment my tenant told me what he was paying for instead of trying work with me that lease will not be renewed. I tell them that 30 days before their lease ends. I move every person out of the building use it as opportunity to fix whole place up and add more value to unit and raise the rents.

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Bill Gulley#3 Guru, Book, & Course Reviews Contributor
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Bill Gulley#3 Guru, Book, & Course Reviews Contributor
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Replied Nov 16 2016, 06:20

Part of tenant education is paying for their mistakes. 

Any tree roots in the area? That's on you. 

There is a wire brush attachment for a snake, like a chimney sweep brush but smaller, a power snake should be able to clean out the drain, if it's tree roots, there is a cutter that can be attached. The right plumber will have the right tools. :)

Deanna McCormick's profile image
  • from Minneapolis, Minnesota
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Deanna McCormick's profile image
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Deanna McCormick
  • Minneapolis, MN
Replied Nov 16 2016, 06:39

We had a line that had a dip in it would constantly cause a problem, cost was to expensive to replace so we had it on a regular jet service. but this was for a 12 unit larger building. every 3 months. 

GREASE is a huge issue, restaurants are on constant service. 

Get the line jetted, use a camera to scope the line the cost for that is about 250.00 Call a guy that can do both. so your sure it's flowing and clear.  Like poster above stated if it's tree roots that can also be done with a cutter. Same plumbing guy make sure he can do it all. 

Give tenants written notice not to put grease down the lines and if it happens again, non-renewal.

Or raise the rent to cover regular jet service. 

Robert Melcher's profile image
  • Residential Real Estate Broker
  • from San Antonio, Texas
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Robert Melcher's profile image
  • Residential Real Estate Broker
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Robert Melcher
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Robert Melcher
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  • San Antonio, TX
Replied Nov 16 2016, 07:00

Its a problem with every sewage treatment environment. Grease should be allowed to cool and disposed of in the garbage, not down the drain.  I would give written notice that grease in the drain is a non-renewal issue.  Explain how to properly dispose of it.

Gail K.'s profile image
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Gail K.
  • Augusta, GA
Replied Nov 16 2016, 07:32

Running the line with a camera would be a good idea.  This will rule tree roots in/out.

I have a pair of tenants who have called me three times in the past 5 months they've resided at the house for a "clogged kitchen drain".   Previous tenants (4 years) had absolutely no issue with this.

Course the tenants claim they "never" pour grease down the drain.   Interestingly, the last text was rather dramatic ("our kitchen sink has been clogged for the past week")...right.  When I got there the drains were running freely but the strainers were out and there was a pile of cooked noodles in the sink.

I use Thrift to clear clogged drains.  I'd add the site to review this product but bigger pockets is likely to knock off my listing, mistakenly believing I'm marketing this product.  I'm not.  Do a search on Thrift to see how effective this is on clearing drains.


Gail

Judd Campbell's profile image
  • from Georgetown, Kentucky
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Judd Campbell's profile image
  • from Georgetown, Kentucky
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Judd Campbell
  • Georgetown, KY
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Judd Campbell
  • Georgetown, KY
Replied Nov 16 2016, 08:10

Thank you all for the quick replies!  The pipe takes a turn and goes right under the slab and through the back door and under the parking lot out back before going into the sewer.  Replacing the lines would be a huge tear up that I would like to avoid.  I will call and inquire about getting a camera service and a brush / squeegee service to push the grease down and out of the lines.  I would like to start them clean and give them a shot to stay.  There is one tree back there 20 feet from the pipe but it is large so maybe that is the problem, perhaps the roots are getting in there, it would be nice to confirm.   

Their lease expires in April '17

Judd Campbell's profile image
  • from Georgetown, Kentucky
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Judd Campbell's profile image
  • from Georgetown, Kentucky
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Judd Campbell
  • Georgetown, KY
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Judd Campbell
  • Georgetown, KY
Replied Nov 16 2016, 09:28

The guy I called said he would use a mechanical snake first then use the jetter.  $400 total.  he will be in and out in 2 hours.  

I looked at buying a jetter myself as I like tools and my handymen could learn to operate it.  seems like the gas powered ones are 3k+

Don't think I need that kind of capital equipment laying around.....although it would be nice to do that to all the drains when I acquire a new property....hmmm

Bryan O.'s profile image
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  • from Lakewood, CO
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Bryan O.'s profile image
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Bryan O.
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  • Lakewood, CO
Replied Nov 17 2016, 06:54

@Judd Campbell what kind of pipe is it? If it is the galvanized, it may be so corroded inside that it is a very narrow channel. I would make sure whoever comes out runs a camera so you can actually identify the problem rather than continue to speculate. If it is grease you have absolute proof. If it is roots, you can fix it.

Also, shame on you for not charging your tenant for their issue. If the plumber says it is grease, invoice the tenant for the repair work. By not doing so you are a bigger problem than the tenant is.

Judd Campbell's profile image
  • from Georgetown, Kentucky
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Judd Campbell's profile image
  • from Georgetown, Kentucky
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Judd Campbell
  • Georgetown, KY
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Judd Campbell
  • Georgetown, KY
Replied Nov 17 2016, 07:18

@Bryan O.,  I think it is all PVC but I am not sure what is under the slab.  Another bummer is there is not a cleanout behind the house.  

I should be better about charging the tenants.  I have 2 handymen and they will just stop by and try to fix it themselves, if it will not open up I end up sending a pro.  I have only had the property 1.5 years and I have not placed any of these tenants in this building so I only hear "It's always been a problem here" 

I am up to 32 units now so I need to be better with standardizing processes. 

Thomas S.'s profile image

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Replied Nov 17 2016, 07:43

he said he will not fix it and he is not going to be responsible for an overflow since he told me about it.

This statement from the tenant is all that I would need to lay down the law and hold the tenant responsible. He told you about the clog, you informed him he will be responsible for the cost to repair. Done deal.

I believe your assumption is correct that the tenant is the cause of the problem. Based on your plumbers report there is no reason to believe otherwise.

Send the tenant a letter notifying them that you will hire a plumber to clear the drains however they will be responsible for the cost. Make sure you indicate what the plumber has found regarding the grease in the past.

Tell your tenant that they will be held liable for any damage the clogged drains may cause.

There is absolutely no reason to cut this tenant any slack on this issue as long as it is in the lease otherwise remove the clause from the lease.

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