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Blockages are fairly common, and they can occur for all sorts of different reasons, from clumps of hair to problems with the main sewer line. However, when it comes to rental properties, these blockages can become much more difficult to deal with.
Landlords and tenants alike take on responsibility for maintaining a property. So, the question is: whose fault is it when a sewer pipe or drain gets blocked?
When a plumbing issue occurs at a rental property, specifically a sewer or drain blockage, it can be difficult to know who is to blame and, therefore, who should bear the cost. Part of the problem lies in the fact that it can be difficult to know what caused the blockage. Another issue is that the line between a landlord’s and a tenant’s responsibility can be blurry.
However, you’ll want to get the blockage sorted as quickly as possible to ensure that it doesn’t get any worse and end up costing a fortune to fix. Ideally, a plumber should be called so that the matter can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. But, who exactly will need to pay for the plumber?
Landlords are legally required to provide a safe and clean property to a tenant and are in charge of ensuring that everything functions as it should during a tenant’s lease. Generally speaking, then, repairs are considered to be the landlord’s responsibility. However, this only applies to repairs that occur as a result of normal wear and tear or malfunction.
While landlords shoulder the lion’s share of the responsibility for their property, tenants are also expected to keep their rental home in good nick. This means that they must leave the house in a similar condition to how they found it. It also means that any repairs that result from a tenant’s or their guest’s actions will need to be dealt with by the tenant.
In spite of the distinction between what is expected of landlords and their tenants, it still isn’t always that clear who should pay for a blocked sewer or drain pipe in a rental property. But, if fault can be established, there won’t be any need for an unpleasant back and forth.
Say, for example, that a blockage has occurred because leaves and other debris have built up in the sewer pipes. In this case, it would be the landlord’s responsibility to sort the issue, because regularly checking the pipes should be a part of their routine maintenance.
However, if the blockage is the result of hair built up in the pipes, then chances are that the tenant will be at fault. This is why it’s super important to be mindful when using showers and sinks, and also to keep outdoor pipes free of leaves and a build up of debris.
A big problem that a lot of landlords run into is the fact that they can’t actually prove whose fault a blocked pipe or other breakage was. While that clump of hair in the drain could very well be the tenant’s, the tenant could easily argue that the hair built up over time. If this turns out to be the case, then it is the landlord’s responsibility to repair the pipe.
You see, while tenants and landlords are both expected to keep the plumbing in good condition, it is the landlord that will have to prove that a pipe was blocked solely because of the current tenant. It is also on them to carry out necessary repairs promptly, or risk defaulting on their legal obligations.
One thing landlords can do to safeguard themselves is to make their tenancy agreement watertight. For one thing, they can opt-out of fixing certain problems if they clearly exclude those problems in the lease. Or, they can include specific instructions in the agreement that outline what a tenant is expected to do to help maintain the plumbing.
The worst-case scenario is that a dispute over blocked sewer or drain pipes will have to be taken up by a third party. In that case, questions over what caused the damage, who bears responsibility for what, and whether fault can be proven will all be taken into account.