Should I ask my tenant to pay for this?

16 Replies

I have a rental property that I manage.
Tenant complained of sewer smell coming from the basement so I called a plumber to come out.  The plumber found that a cap covering the sewer pipe was opened by boxes that tenant placed next to it.  Nothing was broken.  The plumber sealed the cap and charged $79 for trip fee.
Should I ask tenant to pay this bill since the problem was caused by the tenant?
Thank you.


@Jeffrey Chang How sure are you the cap was on and sealed?  Have photos?  Anything to prove that was the case?  Maybe it was on but not sealed and when she moved some boxes down there it was knocked off because it wasn't sealed?

if you are not 100% sure I would not charge them 100%.  I would do the same at @Theresa suggested and do 50/50.  You will forge this, a lot of tenants won't.  Little things like this can mean a premature turnover.  Not staying 2 or 3 extra years, will just leave after 1 year is up because you charge them for things you are not 100% sure about.  $40 bucks now could cost a tenant turn.  Not saying this will happen of course but may be penny wise/pound foolish. 

If there's no concrete evidence they're at fault, I usually err on the side of caution and offer to split it or let it go. Regardless, use this as a learning opportunity for the tenant and remind them they may be responsible if a problem is caused by their negligence or abuse.

Things like this I just cover and use as a learning opportunity for next time. Many of my tenants have been the unaware and uneducated...but also willing to text a photo of the problem and try something if I coach. So in my case I've fostered that so they will at least call me and try before I call someone. 

@Jeffrey Chang a cap covering a sewer pipe that can be knocked off by a box?   A broken pipe next to an obvious pile of their boxes ok charge but don't those caps screw on?   It is as likely to be your previous plumbers fault as the tenants if it is that easy to knock off. just my thoughts, I didn't see it.

@Colleen F. I would be grateful they called you quickly so you could fix it. Sewer gasses contain methane and are flammable. You could have lost the house. If you charge them for something that you can't definitively prove was their fault you would be sending the wrong message. You want to know right away about things like this, critters in the attic and small leaks. Addressing them early saves a lot of money. If the tenant is worried they are going to get charged everytime they call you they will ignore a lot of things you will want to know about. Educate them and say thanks for letting you know.

@Jeffrey Chang I would charge the tenant if you are certain there was not other way for the cap to have come off besides the tenants actions.  If the cap was not secured property to begin with then that would be a different story. 

Tenent cause a sewer cap to come off by placing a box next to it?

Tenants can be VERY vindictive years after they feel they were taken advantage of 

If it were me I would be happy it was an $80 bill from a plumber. VS a letter of Notice of Intent to Sue by an attorney for providing an unsafe rental where children have access to a sewer cap which was improperly put on