Tenant wants me to pay high water bill. What should I do?

11 Replies

Tenant reported a leaky toilet. I had it repaired within 24 hours of report. The flapper had gone bad. 

Then tenant contacted me claiming she had a very high water bill due to the water leaking and wanted me to pay the bill. 

Apparently the flapper had been leaking for some time. 

She has been there almost a year, and when she moved in several inspections verify that toilets were in good working order. 

She claims she didn't know it was leaking until she reported it to me. She claims that she should not be responsible for the water bill since this is not her fault.  It must have been leaking all month because her normal bill of $70 sky rocketed to around $400

She is the only person on contract with city for water bill. I am not apart of that as lease dictates that she pay her own utilities. 

Advice please.

Thank you :)

@Jason J.

No toilet would leak that much.

A really leaky toilet would be noticeable.

I have a lot of chlorine in my water and had to switch to heavy duty flappers. Water bill never changed when the toilets leaked passed the flappers.

You can talk to the water company and see if they can give you some analysis on usage. if the usage was steady, then it might be the flapper. If it goes up and down, then it's people taking 2 hour showers.

Personally it sounds like she is trying to milk you for money since she didn't know the toliet was leaking. You didn't let it leak for a month, and you fixed it within 24hours. I do not see why YOU should pay the bill for her not understanding how to report issues. Would YOU pay the bill if her bedroom window was broken and she left the A/C on high to keep the place cool and didn't report the issue to you for a month?

I would say since she reported it on (example) Sept 15th, and you repaired it Sept 16th. You will give her 1/30 water credit towards next month's rent, since it was obvious that you where unable to fix it and the 'damages' caused from the time they where reported until the time they where fixed.

I've had this happen at two rentals.  I even warn tenants during the lease signing that, if they ever hear the toilet running and not stopping, to call me immediately during business hours.  Because they will have an insane water bill, otherwise.

As much as that's a bummer for the tenant and I sympathize, it's their mistake for not noticing/calling you sooner.  You fixed the problem within 24 hours of their call.  You did exactly what you were supposed to do to remedy the problem and did it quickly.

Sure.  Things break down.  Sometimes without warning.  It's just one of those things.  Where, just because a "bad" happens, doesn't mean it is someone else's fault.

If the tenant is responsible for the water bill and you fixed the issues in 24 hours and the issue is in fact due to the flapper then I would not pay or credit anything back to the tenant for the bill and remind them they need to let you know ASAP if there are any problems. Chances are if that was the culprit then it has been draining and refilling constantly so they should have known something was wrong.

Its doubtful that a leaky flapper, unless it was big steady stream leaking, would cause the bill to go from $70 - $400. You may want to investigate and make sure there is not a leak somewhere else or underground. Is the yard soppy or wet when there hasn't been rain? Do any faucets drip? Is there any water on the floor around the hot water heater? Do they have a large number of people living in the unit or have new people moved in? We have three relatives visit us every year and I can see a substantial increase in our water and sewage bill even thought they only stay with use for a week or two due to the extra baths, cooking and toilet use.

Washing cars or neighbors stealing water from a faucet can also be a problem in certain areas.

If you can find a good time to check then check the meter on the street, make sure there is no water running in the unit and that no one will turn on or flush anything at all, let it sit 30 minutes or so and see if the meter goes up which would indicate a leak somewhere.

The tenant may also be able to call the water company and plead their case (Not blaming you) that there was a leak that was out of their control and that they didn't realize it soon enough and see if they will give them a break on the bill, it depends on the water company but I have seen the water companies in my area give a break on the bill for certain circumstances.

I had monster toilets from the 20's that leaked around the flaps because of the hard water when I first bought the place. A leaky flap would not cause that much water usage. No flap might... If it has old cooper fittings like a fill tube those may have a hairline crack but again not a water bill like that! And you would hear the toilet refilling upon inspection. Constantly.

(BTW got the old toilets working like brand new. You lose ideas when you flush them....)

Maybe a backyard pool event?

@Pete Widell - impressive that you can revive a toilet from the 20's(do you mean the 1920's? I've never heard of such an old toilet. I guess they don't make things like they used to!)

If the toilet really is that old, it was probably built without water conservation in mind. Toilets from the 70's regularly used upwards of 5 gallons per flush- modern standards are around 1.6 gpf. So you may have water hogs on your hands- if that's the case, I'd leapfrog into modern technology. The Niagara Stealth from Home Depot uses only .8 gpf, I've installed them and they work well. Or try any well-reviewed toilet that uses 1.28 gpf(that's a typical water-sipper these days.)

Absolutely not. Even if the account was in your name. How could she expect you to be responsible for something she did not report to you?

@Michael Gansberg Yes, American Standard toilets. The tanks were mounted on the wall with a metal pipe connecting the tank to the rear of the toilet. They were great! The way to reduce water usage was either to put bricks in the tank, fill a milk jug, or adjust the ballcock to reduce the water usage. Replace those units and you will have a toilet 4-6 inches from the wall. Plumbers don't like them as they can make more money replacing. Repairing is easy if you can find the parts as well as makes the home feel more authentic. If anyone needs help with a toilet like that give me a shout..

It's her responsibility to monitor the toilet and report problems. It's not her fault? It certainly isn't yours since you can't actively monitor the toilet when she's living there.

She reported the problem, you fixed the problem. She's responsible for everything prior to that.