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Are Blocked Drains a Landlord's Responsibility?

by Aldrin on Apr 20, 2017

As a tenant renting a property, you are expected to do any kind of reasonable maintenance work that prevents damage to the property. But what happens if the shower or sink drain gets blocked and water starts backing up? It sounds like a potentially complicated situation, but there is a simple way for tenants to determine if a blocked drain is the landlord's responsibility, or theirs.

What Caused the Blockage?

To understand who is responsible when a drain in a rental is blocked, we have to start from the very beginning and trace the source of the clog. In theory, it would be reasonable for a tenant to contact the landlord about a clog if a piece of ceiling tile broke off unexpectedly and clogged the drain. Not only is the drain clog an issue, but the ceiling would probably need to be looked at as well.

The tenant can assume that they will be responsible for the clog if it is the direct result of something they did. For example, if the young girl of the house stuffs doll heads into the toilet, then that clog is the responsibility of the tenant. Even if that sort of clog requires a plumber to clear, the tenant can expect the landlord to present them with the bill for the plumber.

What Does the Lease Say?

Some tenants are very literal in their interpretation when it comes to leases and will call the landlord for any type of maintenance issue or repair. As a tenant, it is your responsibility to read the lease to see if it mentions that routine maintenance items will be your responsibility. A lightly clogged drain is considered a routine maintenance item and the tenant would be expected to take care of it.

A Tenant Who is all Thumbs

Many people rent because they are simply not handy around the house. If a clog appears in a drain, then the tenant may be uncomfortable with taking care of it for fear of doing damage. If you are renting a home because you are simply unable to do routine maintenance, then it is best to discuss that with your landlord and make arrangements before you sign the lease.

A Practical Reason to Call the Landlord

A home with older plumbing can be filled with challenges when it comes to clogged drains. When a drain gets clogged, the tenant might feel uneasy about doing the routine maintenance because the pipes are old and potentially frail. This is a legitimate concern, and would be a practical reason to discuss the situation with the landlord before anyone takes any action.

So Who is Responsible?

The best approach for a clogged drain is for the tenant to take basic maintenance measures to try and remove the problem. If the landlord cannot come to the property immediately, then a clogged drain could create a mess before the landlord can take care of it. Basic measures such as clog removing liquids or using a plunger are reasonable tasks for any tenant to undertake.

A clog that does not respond to general maintenance solutions could be a much larger problem that is best handled by the landlord. If a plumber is needed and the issue is proven to be something caused by the tenant, then the landlord might send the tenant the plumber's bill to pay. But any major repairs or high level maintenance to a rental should only be done by the landlord, and not the tenant.

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