Who is Responsible for Plumbing Issues on a Rental Property?

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Plumbing calls for regular maintenance and repair.

However, the common question among tenants and landlords is always: who is responsible for plumbing repairs on the rental property? 

The majority of tenants believe it is the landlords’ responsibility to take care of the plumbing issues that arise during their tenancy.

But that could not be the case in all circumstances. You don’t have to wait for the landlord to fix an urgent issue.

You can always contact a professional plumbing service to address any plumbing issues in your rented dwelling.

Here’s a breakdown of this debatable topic and an analysis of every party’s responsibilities in the landlord-tenant relationship:

Whose Responsibility is it According to Your Tenancy Agreement?

Generally, your landlord is answerable for problems that affect your ability to enjoy and live in your apartment.

However, this doesn’t always mean that they will be responsible for everything that goes wrong in your apartment. 

In such a moment, when confusion strikes and you don’t know whether your landlord has to repair water pipes or not, you need to refer to the tenancy agreement.

Sometimes, the tenancy agreement may not explicitly indicate whether your landlord is responsible for plumbing, heating, and other repairs.

All hope is not lost in such a case; you can refer to your state’s landlord-tenant statutes and see what’s covered there. 

These laws vary between states and local governments; the more reason you should always check the local regulations before solving any specific problem.

Who Should Handle Plumbing Emergencies?

What qualifies as a plumbing emergency?

You should strive to know how to classify the plumbing problems you can encounter, either as an emergency or not.

As a tenant, you are to contact the landlord immediately as you seek quick ways of mitigating the trouble in the case of an emergency.

The challenge, though, comes when you need to classify a plumbing problem as an emergency. If you have a leaking tap, you cannot possibly classify it as an emergency.

However, the following can qualify as emergency plumbing problems:

  • Broken water heater
  • Burst water pipes
  • Sinks or toilets with continuous water flow
  • Persistent leaks
  • Kitchen without water

Your landlord should handle all emergencies. You must understand how to differentiate an emergency plumbing problem from one that’s not.

The Non-Urgent Repairs

Non-urgent repairs are those that are not necessarily emergencies, but they could make your rented apartment uninhabitable after some time. An example is a blocked drainage system

It may not need urgent attention, but if left unattended for some time, it will affect your comfort in the apartment. Since it affects habitability, the landlord is tasked to repair it.

Depending on your local laws, the duration your landlord should take before repairing non-urgent repairs varies. Some jurisdictions require that landlords settle the non-urgent repairs within two weeks. Some will require less time, and some even more.

If the time frame expires and no repair is done, you should contact the local authorities for help. Local authorities may take legal action against your landlord and push him to take responsibility.

What Happens When Landlords Fail to Comply with Your Repair Requests?

There are several actions you could take against your landlord in case they fail to comply with your repair request(s).

Here are some of the actions you can take against your landlord.

1. The Repair and Deduct Strategy

A repair and deduct strategy is an option in some local laws, where you can hire someone to handle your plumbing repairs and later deduct the cost from the rent. 

However, this strategy is not always available for minor repairs. And to use it, you must have served your landlord with adequate prior notice to its use.

You should also give the landlord enough time to make the repairs before moving on with this choice.

Since this step’s procedural requirements differ per state, you should ensure you carefully examine the relevant local laws before making the steps.

2. Withholding Rent Payment for Some Time

Again, depending on your local laws on tenancy, you can legally have the option to withhold rent payment until the repair you requested is done adequately. 

Since this step could be very harsh and a hard pill for the landlord to swallow, the state may require that you hold the money in an escrow account until it is safe to release.

Upon clearance of the repairs, the landlord can claim the money for rent, which will now be with the escrow account.

Alternatively, you can opt for paying a fraction of the rent until the repair is entirely done.

3. Seek Help From Local Authorities

This is remarkably advisable if the problem in question violates state, local building, or health codes.

In such a case, you will have to contact local authorities for help regarding the issue.

The local authorities will send an inspector to come and assess the state of the plumbing challenges.

If they find the problem, the authority will order the landlord to fix the problem and charge him fines or penalties.

4. Terminate Rental/Lease Agreement or Constructive Eviction

When things go south, and the landlord remains adamant about solving the problem, you can choose to move out of the rental unit and end the rental/lease agreement

This move is only applicable where there is proven evidence that the problem is pervasive, and it disturbs your right to live in a habitable structure.

Most often, such a move leads to a lawsuit against the landlord. The case you present against your landlord in court is known as a constructive eviction lawsuit. 

However, to win this case against your landlord, you must present three things:

  • You must prove that the uninhabitable conditions result from your landlord’s reluctance to fix the problems. 
  • You must prove that you left the rental property in a reasonable time.
  • You must prove you gave the property owner a written notice outlining the reasons for constructive eviction and gave them enough time to repair the problems.

Final Thought

Most of the plumbing issues you’ll face in your rented apartment are your landlord’s problems to worry about.

Depending on the magnitude and emergency of the problem, you can always decide on the best action to bring normalcy back.

If your state laws allow, you can always choose to fix the problem and settle the payment with whatever option your local laws advocate for.

While the landlord is majorly responsible for most plumbing issues, the basic responsibilities start with you.

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