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Home · Property Management · Remodel and Repair : Circling the Drain: Who Pays for Hairy Repair

by Robert Griswold

Q: My sister lives on disability and recently hired a plumber to clear a stopped drain in her shower. The plumber said it was a hair clog and sent the landlord a bill for $137. The landlord turned around and sent the bill and a letter to my sister demanding that she pay because it was her fault. Who’s responsible for the bill?

A: Many tenants are aware of the concept that their landlord cannot make deductions from their security deposit for items that are normal wear and tear. So I am sure that you and your sister are thinking that hair in the shower is part of normal wear and tear.

Well, that is debatable.

Another way to look at it is that a shower drain clog can be avoided with a little care such as a hair trap over the drain rather than just letting the hair go down the drain and build up over time till the only solution is to call a plumber for an expensive service call.

Your sister could also use products to keep the drain clean on a preventive maintenance basis. Remember that regular cleaning and proper use of the rental home is the responsibility of the tenant.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies” and “Property Management Kit for Dummies” and co-author of “Real Estate Investing for Dummies.” E-mail your questions to Rental Q&A at [email protected].
Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.
Copyright 2010 Inman News

See Robert Griswold’s feature, The Unfair Late Fee.
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    Mitigating factors that the landlord must consider:

    Did the drain back up within a few days or weeks of the initial rental, then the question might be raised as to whether the prior renter might have contributed to this and whether the landlord had a duty to address the issue before renting the unit again.

    Also, the past history of work at the unit might be subject to question and review if the renter takes reasonable steps to address the issue by using drain cleaning products, yet the problem persists.

    The age of the unit, whether parallel units are having similar issues as a part of a pattern of such problems, and any material recalls that relate to the specific sinks, drains and piping must be looked at by the landlord. Public utilities problems in some communities can cause backups in sewage and drains that could contribute to blockage, so, in some relatively rare cases, a public agency might share liability. Landlords have the duty to track such issues and keep them at the forefront of their minds whenever such claims arise. The landlord should take care to review the history of the unit, keeping meticulous records of all repairs and upgrades in order to make a proper determination as to who should pay such a bill.

    The cost of a legal dispute and losing an otherwise good-paying renter, may be too high, and the landlord should consider offering to split the bill if it comes down to a fight where the landlord things he or she is in the right.

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