Tenant did not notify of issue, now a problem

5 Replies

I have a tenant who moved in to one of my patio homes in July.  

This morning she notified me that 2nd floor toilet for the 2nd bathroom overflowed yesterday and leaked to the ceiling on the first floor around a light fixture.  They used a plunger and got rid of the blockage.  But she's included a picture of one of the bolts of the toilet, showing that it's missing a bolt.  She claims she noticed it on move in and noted it on the checklist which she has not sent to me (yet - supposedly).  

Upon further questioning, she says the toilet actually didn't overflow and that the wax ring was broken and water was seeping there.  She claims guests that have used that toilet have mentioned that the toilet rocks.  So you can see where this is going.

But isn't the fact that there was an issue that she failed to notify of us make her liable for the issue and the damage?  We can easily fix the toilet - new wax ring and make sure the bolt is secure.  But the damage to the ceiling below, etc should be her responsibility. 

Thoughts?

Tanya

That’s a tough one. Though they should have notified you, you probably should have noticed it during changeover. Though a wax ring issue would result in a slow drip/leak. An overflow due to a blockage is much more water. I would get a plumber there to fix and give you an opinion on what happened. If it was a wax ring, I would eat it. An overflow was probably something they shouldn’t have flushed.

Thanks @Mike McCarthy for the quick response.

I know there was a blockage - she has admitted to that.  So definitely something she shouldn't have flushed.  This is the 2nd incident with a toilet blockage for her, but different toilet.  The first one happened shortly after she moved in (10 days) so we gave her the benefit of the doubt for that one, and hired Roto-Rooter for that one.  

I agree that we should've noticed the missing nut on the bolt during the changeover, but some things get missed.  She stated that multiple guests have mentioned the toilet, but she failed to bring anything to our attention.  

We will definitely be replacing the wax ring and securing the bolt.  That's not an issue.  The issue is the damage to the ceiling and/or any other damage.  She also notes that she noticed a ring around the light fixture.  But I have pix of the house before she took possession, and there was no water damage ring.  So another item that pointed to a problem that she did not bring to our attention.  

I believe that if there is an issue and the tenant does not bring it to our attention to fix, that resulting issues are most likely (and in this case) the responsibility of the tenant.   Also, my lease states that the tenants are responsible for plumbing blockages.

Just a follow-up for anyone who cares...

We discovered (as we rather suspected) that the mounting bolt was just fine.  There was a nut on there after all.  And the wax ring didn't fail (which would've been quite rare).  The toilet did overflow - let's just say there was proof of it in the bathroom  - and she finally admitted that it did.  

So the final result is that she is responsible for the damage caused by the blockage/overflow.  End of story.  :) 

Originally posted by @Tanya H. :

I have a tenant who moved in to one of my patio homes in July.  

[...]She claims she noticed it on move in and noted it on the checklist which she has not sent to me (yet - supposedly).  


I'm confused. Checklist? You mean the move-in checklist that lists all items that are not in normal condition? If so, that is not acceptable and basically worthless now that 2+ months have past. That needs to be completed when you turn over keys. You need to put something in the lease that basically states: Tenant acknowledges they have examined the apartment and all furnishings, fixtures, plumbing, HVAC, electrical facilities, and all other items provided by landlord are in clean, good, and working condition except as may be indicated in Addendum A.

You also need something in your lease that states that if the tenant does not immediately notify you of issues, they will be liable for the additional damage caused by the delay.

@Greg M. - thanks for the reply.

Due to some other situations upon move-in, the checklist was not able to swapped for keys.  I do have a statement in my lease that reads pretty much exactly as you noted.  So yes, the checklist is worthless at this point.  I stamped it with the receipt date, and I have in writing that she had not provided me the checklist until today.

But yes, I do need to update my lease stating that the tenant is responsible for additional damage caused by failure to notify me of issues.  I've been an active landlord for over 20 years, and my leases have evolved thru the years.  It's always the "special" tenants that provide the learning experiences.    

But this one turned out to be not a case of failing to report issues.  It's actually a case of lying about what happened.  The toilet was in fact bolted down properly, and there was not any leaking around the light fixture until the toilet overflowed from a tenant-caused blockage.