I charged Tenant for furnace abuse

10 Replies

Previous tenant occupied the home for two years with no furnace problems. New tenant moved in two months ago. Last week they called to report the furnace wasn't running. I send someone to check it. Long story short, they kept getting different fault codes, replaced some parts, cleaned some parts, inspected for damage, etc. No matter what they did, they couldn't keep it running and said it would probably be best to replace it since it's 15 years old and a low-quality furnace.

I decided on a second opinion. Second plumber had same fault codes, cleaned some more, and couldn't figure out what the problem was. He finally decided to check the venting. He stuck a camera into the vent pipe and...

Yes, that's a baseball. The plumber digs it out but then...

A baseball, tennis ball, wiffle ball, nerf ball, multiple rocks, and trash. This family has four children whereas the previous tenant had none, so it's pretty clear who caused the issue.

My lease is clear:

Owner will not pay to repair conditions caused by the Tenant, his guest or invitee or damage due to windows or doors left open, sewer/septic stoppages caused by foreign or improper objects in lines, or cosmetic items that do not impact the functionality or use of the item. Should Owner determine repairs are necessary due to the misuse, abuse, or neglect by Tenant, his guests or invitees, Tenant shall be responsible for the cost of such repairs.

I feel bad for the tenant but it took two different plumbers, around 10 hours, and several parts replaced. The invoices haven't arrived yet but I suspect the final bill will be in the neighborhood of $1,000 and the tenant will have to pay it all.

I hope this proves helpful to others.

Time to put some type of screen/grate on it. Make sure it doesn't restrict too much.

https://www.menards.com/main/plumbing/rough-plumbing/pipe-tubing-hoses-fittings-accessories/fittings/pvc-fittings/genova-3-pvc-floor-strainer-dwv/69230/p-1444431309006-c-8557.htm?tid=-4247441135212496827&ipos=84

I think this would be your fault for not properly protecting your furnace vent access. The words in your lease do not say anything about your heating vent. It only talks about the toilet and septic tank for objects flushed into the toilet.

Your tenant may not read and you may get away with this, but I don't think it would stand up in court, especially not in Chicago. You have to take steps to mitigate damage to your property. Having your vent this close to the ground is inviting not only kids to put things in there, but animals as well. Not only should you position it at least 10 ft, but it should also have a mesh screen (1 centimeter) to prevent large animals from getting in.

Wow.  That invoice might be good motivation for more observant parenting.   Although I understand kids are hard to monitor all the time!!!  Good idea for a screen or gate, would code allow for something like that!  good job getting a second opinion to find the real issue!!!  

Originally posted by @Ray Harrell :

I think this would be your fault for not properly protecting your furnace vent access. The words in your lease do not say anything about your heating vent. It only talks about the toilet and septic tank for objects flushed into the toilet.

Your tenant may not read and you may get away with this, but I don't think it would stand up in court, especially not in Chicago. You have to take steps to mitigate damage to your property. Having your vent this close to the ground is inviting not only kids to put things in there, but animals as well. Not only should you position it at least 10 ft, but it should also have a mesh screen (1 centimeter) to prevent large animals from getting in.

You're joking, right?

How do you protect from willful destruction?  I mean, they're kids and I get that.... but this is nothing short of willful and intentional harm and negligence on the part of the tenant/family. 

This can't even be considered an attractive nuisance.  

I had a tenant flush potatoes down the toilet.  4 whole, raw potatoes.  They claim their 4 year old did it.  Was I somehow supposed to protect against that too?

There's nothing for the OP to "get away with".  They are well within their rights to bill back for damage and destruction caused by the tenants or their guests/family.

@Ray Harrell  My lease also doesn't say anything about the Tenant burning down a house after building a bonfire in the basement. The fact is, no lease covers every contingency. The basic premise, upheld by courts around the nation, is that the tenant is responsible for damages above and beyond ordinary wear-and-tear. I'm pretty sure it would hold up even in places like Chicago.

@Jim S. I thought the same thing but I've never had this problem before. My plumbers have over 20 years combined experience and they've never seen this.

Full credit to the second vendor for catching it. You can't even really fault the first guy either. 

My concerns around trying to go after a previous tenant for this would be around what rights you'd actually have to do so so far after the end of their lease. Has their SODA been processed and any final billing complete? I am guessing after 60 days probably so. 

I know this is going to vary state by state, but 60 days seems like a stretch to have any chance if the previous tenant were to dispute this in any way. 

@Patrick Blood I think @Nathan G. is going after the current tenants.  They're the ones with kids and furnace problems.  The previous tenant had no kids or furnace problems.

Originally posted by @Jon Holdman :

@Patrick Blood I think @Nathan G. is going after the current tenants.  They're the ones with kids and furnace problems.  The previous tenant had no kids or furnace problems.

 Absolutely correct I misread and had it reversed. Thank you.

Makes this a straightforward tenant charge given your lease in this scenario. 

@Nathan G. , it's probably because your vent is  on the roof where I commonly see it. I've never seen a furnace vent this low and accessible. This was poorly designed from the beginning. i'd be curious to see how this stands up in court, if it ever gets to court.

@Ray Harrell it depends on the type of furnace.

If your furnace has an AFUE rating below 90 percent, it will most likely have a flue pipe that goes up through your roof. That's because the combustion byproducts are in a gaseous form, so the gases can float up through the flue pipe and out of your roof.

If your furnace has an AFUE rating of 90 percent or above, it will have a flue pipe that goes out of the side of your house. That's because the combustion byproducts are in a liquid form, so they need to be drained out of your home in a similar way the condensation from an air conditioner is drained outside.

At least, that's my understanding of it.

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