Anyone include Toilet Policies in their lease?

21 Replies

Hi, all-- 

We had an issue with one of our rental properties regarding the brand-new toilet that we installed about 3 months ago. We suspect foreign objects (feminine products, q-tips, makeup remover cloths, etc.) may have been flushed. 

I want to add to our lease a section that basically states "if damage to the toilet, pipes, or surrounding area are found to be the source of any foreign objects being flushed, occupants will be responsible to cover all repair fees and damages." 

Has anyone does this? Is this legal? Is this a good idea, or a bad idea? We're a bit annoyed considering this is a brand-new renovation and grown adults should know better. 

Thanks! 

I have known a few friends who have. They have experienced problems with the "wipes" that people use for almost everything now.

I have a plumbing clog/repair clause that basically says that any plumbing issue will be billed back to the tenants including clog removal and to not flush anything but toilet paper down the drains.

I’ll of course never charge them for a plumbing issue that is a system issue (old pipes, etc), but have billed the cost of snaking when non-TP things are found.

PLUMBING: You shall report all drips and leaks immediately to the Property Manager. You shall never pour cooking grease or other damaging/obstructing objects down toilets, sinks or drains. You are liable for all expenses or repairs resulting from the stopping of waste pipes or overflow from sinks, tubs, toilets, showers, washbasins or containers.

It is education not documentation.  

A tenant complained about foreign object plugged the toilet. Her landlord said everything was checked before moved in. With five kids running around the plumber found toys inside. That was the end of the lease. Sorry.


I recently rented to a group of strippers that had an affinity for wet wipes.  Plumber had to fish them out a couple times, and then he would tend to linger.  My lease now graphically provides:


Obligations of Tenant to Maintain the Property. Tenants shall, at their sole expense, cause themselves and all other persons at the Property to, and be responsible for any damage and/or repair resulting from their failure to: 

...

g.  Use in a reasonable manner all appliances, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other components of the Property (examples include: cleaning the lint tray in the dryer before each use to mitigate fire danger; only flushing feces, urine, and toilet paper down the toilet drain to prevent sewer back up; etc.);

Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy :

I recently rented to a group of strippers that had an affinity for wet wipes.  Plumber had to fish them out a couple times, and then he would tend to linger.  My lease now graphically provides:


Obligations of Tenant to Maintain the Property. Tenants shall, at their sole expense, cause themselves and all other persons at the Property to, and be responsible for any damage and/or repair resulting from their failure to: 

...

g.  Use in a reasonable manner all appliances, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other components of the Property (examples include: cleaning the lint tray in the dryer before each use to mitigate fire danger; only flushing feces, urine, and toilet paper down the toilet drain to prevent sewer back up; etc.);

 but why did he linger?

Is it legal? As Darth Sidious once said: I will make it legal

But yes, my mom has been a property manager my entire life and there has always been a plumbing policy in the leases. Just ensure your tenants know that it's in there. 

I include that, and I also include language about what cannot go down the garbage disposal.

Originally posted by @Max T. :
Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy:

I recently rented to a group of strippers that had an affinity for wet wipes.  Plumber had to fish them out a couple times, and then he would tend to linger.  My lease now graphically provides:


Obligations of Tenant to Maintain the Property. Tenants shall, at their sole expense, cause themselves and all other persons at the Property to, and be responsible for any damage and/or repair resulting from their failure to: 

...

g.  Use in a reasonable manner all appliances, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other components of the Property (examples include: cleaning the lint tray in the dryer before each use to mitigate fire danger; only flushing feces, urine, and toilet paper down the toilet drain to prevent sewer back up; etc.);

 but why did he linger?

Did I mention I filled the house with a group of six 19 yr old strippers? Contractor productivity was at an all time low for the duration of their lease, though response time was unparalleled. 

Yes, it's a thing to put it in there. So much so, the standard California Lease Agreement includes it already. It basically says that is any toilet issues happen for any reason other than things like tree roots, etc., it's on the tenant.

LMAO, some of these stories are to sad, funny and all too true. I speak from experience, over the years I have seen my fair share of "surprises" doing toilet service jobs. I can always say that any landlord/owner I have ever done work for I have always insisted that they have a "plumbing clause" in your contract. This tends to usually be the most frequent service call (toilet issue) when it comes to tenants. The Owner should not be responsible for tenant negligence. Back-ups and toilet clogs are tenant responsibility for my clients. no exceptions. 

Yes my lease has that provision as well. Anything caused by them is their responsibility. I once had a tenant complain who had 2 small kids. I expected toys to be found in the toilet but the plumber snaked out a bunch of roots that had broken into the pipe. I paid and had the tree cut down. I don't understand why developers/builders plant trees directly above the drain pipe. The cleanout was about 10 inches from the stump. 

@Kendall Vrana yes our lease calls out that nothing but toilet paper should be flushed and it cites examples of things not to flush like feminine hygiene. Don't just put it in your lease, but also talk to them about it. Let them know the plumber will get the clogged item out and if it is anything but toilet paper, the tenant will pay the full expense. I stayed at an Airbnb where there was even a sign on the wall in front of the toilet that said not to flush feminine hygiene items.

Even if it is not in your lease, I would charge your tenant for the service call. Even if they say, "I didn't know" that is no excuse. Ignorance isn't an excuse for negligence. The law upholds the concept of "common sense". My lease doesn't say you can't put knives in electrical outlets, but if someone chooses to, I am not liable for the result.

Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy :

I recently rented to a group of strippers that had an affinity for wet wipes.  Plumber had to fish them out a couple times, and then he would tend to linger.  My lease now graphically provides:


Obligations of Tenant to Maintain the Property. Tenants shall, at their sole expense, cause themselves and all other persons at the Property to, and be responsible for any damage and/or repair resulting from their failure to: 

...

g.  Use in a reasonable manner all appliances, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other components of the Property (examples include: cleaning the lint tray in the dryer before each use to mitigate fire danger; only flushing feces, urine, and toilet paper down the toilet drain to prevent sewer back up; etc.);

 You left out vomit ;)

Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy :
Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum:
Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy:

I recently rented to a group of strippers that had an affinity for wet wipes.  Plumber had to fish them out a couple times, and then he would tend to linger.  My lease now graphically provides:


Obligations of Tenant to Maintain the Property. Tenants shall, at their sole expense, cause themselves and all other persons at the Property to, and be responsible for any damage and/or repair resulting from their failure to: 

...

g.  Use in a reasonable manner all appliances, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other components of the Property (examples include: cleaning the lint tray in the dryer before each use to mitigate fire danger; only flushing feces, urine, and toilet paper down the toilet drain to prevent sewer back up; etc.);

 but why did he linger?

Did I mention I filled the house with a group of six 19 yr old strippers? Contractor productivity was at an all time low for the duration of their lease, though response time was unparalleled. 

 I am surprised your city zoning allows six unrelated adults in a property. 

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :
Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy:
Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum:
Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy:

I recently rented to a group of strippers that had an affinity for wet wipes.  Plumber had to fish them out a couple times, and then he would tend to linger.  My lease now graphically provides:


Obligations of Tenant to Maintain the Property. Tenants shall, at their sole expense, cause themselves and all other persons at the Property to, and be responsible for any damage and/or repair resulting from their failure to: 

...

g.  Use in a reasonable manner all appliances, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other components of the Property (examples include: cleaning the lint tray in the dryer before each use to mitigate fire danger; only flushing feces, urine, and toilet paper down the toilet drain to prevent sewer back up; etc.);

 but why did he linger?

Did I mention I filled the house with a group of six 19 yr old strippers? Contractor productivity was at an all time low for the duration of their lease, though response time was unparalleled. 

 I am surprised your city zoning allows six unrelated adults in a property. 

 As you would assume, most cities in the Denver area allow only 3 to 4 unrelated occupants. You can push to 6 legally in certain unincorporated areas around Denver. Even more in R3 if you’re brave. 

Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy :
Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock:
Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy:
Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum:
Originally posted by @Carl Dowdy:

I recently rented to a group of strippers that had an affinity for wet wipes.  Plumber had to fish them out a couple times, and then he would tend to linger.  My lease now graphically provides:


Obligations of Tenant to Maintain the Property. Tenants shall, at their sole expense, cause themselves and all other persons at the Property to, and be responsible for any damage and/or repair resulting from their failure to: 

...

g.  Use in a reasonable manner all appliances, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other components of the Property (examples include: cleaning the lint tray in the dryer before each use to mitigate fire danger; only flushing feces, urine, and toilet paper down the toilet drain to prevent sewer back up; etc.);

 but why did he linger?

Did I mention I filled the house with a group of six 19 yr old strippers? Contractor productivity was at an all time low for the duration of their lease, though response time was unparalleled. 

 I am surprised your city zoning allows six unrelated adults in a property. 

 As you would assume, most cities in the Denver area allow only 3 to 4 unrelated occupants. You can push to 6 legally in certain unincorporated areas around Denver. Even more in R3 if you’re brave. 

 I think over 3 adults is brave and 6 strippers is a little on the wild side for me. How will you get the smell of cheap perfume out after they leave?

I use this from @Brandon Turner 's book:

PLUMBING: Tenant shall be held responsible for all costs related to Landlord's repair or maintenance of any plumbing stoppage or slow-down caused by Tenant, whether accidental or purposeful. Tenant agrees not to place into any drain lines non-approved substances such as cooking grease, sanitary napkins, diapers, children’s toys or other similar object that may cause a stoppage. Tenant shall notify Landlord of any plumbing leak or slow drainage within 24 hours to avoid additional charges. Landlord shall use all reasonable efforts to remedy the plumbing problem. Tenant shall only use a plunger to attempt to fix a slow or stopped drain, and not pour chemical or other drain cleaners into any stopped or slow drains.Tenant shall also be responsible for any plumbing system freeze-ups occasioned by Tenant’s negligence. 

While true that it's in a standard California lease agreement, and lots of suggestions related how to include a sane policy if it's not already there, I don't enforce it because in practical terms it's against my long-term interests.

I would like you to consider what happens when your renters know they are on the hook for repairs--if you haven't already guessed it, they won't tell you about problems before they explode.

I'm literally dealing with this right now. In the morning I'll be going to one of my duplexes to see how much damage has been done from sewage seeping up from all the toilets for the past week. Apparently, the drains have been slow for weeks. No one told me because, I hope you guessed it this time, previous landlord constantly threatened them with a bill and/or eviction every time a clog arose.

It matters in the legal sense that the clogs are from root intrusion on a 75+ year old cast iron sewer line, but it doesn't matter in a practical sense. Tenants are not likely to draw that distinction, nor are they likely to stand up to their landlords and threaten to sue over root intrusion vs. a sanitary napkin claim, and they will do all sorts of things to try and clear that "clog" and not call a plumber or their landlord but we get stuck with the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars to address the aftermath. Reality is, if tenants had $10-20K lying around they'd probably be paying a mortgage instead of rent. Same reason I choose to do my own HVAC filters...because *I* own the thing that will break when, not if, it does. I can make someone else responsible with all kinds of legalese and threats but unless I install CC surveillance in the homes none of it is going to matter in the practical sense.

It gets even stickier in multi-family homes, which is our primary bread and butter. My solution so far, which I've found true in all kinds of aspects of life, is to do the job myself in order to make sure it gets done right. I can't even trust plumbers, unfortunately. I ended up buying a professional snake (one of those thousand dollar+ jobs) from a retiring plumber for $400 that I talked down to $200.

I did used to pay for professional servicing, in fact had jetting/cutting/camera done just 6 months prior to this incident which I now think half of the job wasn't even done at all let alone correctly. The tenants knew I had done the job and never saw a bill, never even talked about how much it was, but fear isn't rational and fear of raised rent, unexpected bills, and/or eviction is a tough nut to crack when most of my tenants have had terrible landlords.