Whose Mess Is This? In an Apartment, When Is It Your Problem or the Building’s?

Whose Mess Is This? In an Apartment, When Is It Your Problem or the Building’s?

Photo By Robert Kneschke at Shutterstock

If something goes wrong in your rented home or apartment, part of the challenge for clean-up can be determining who is responsible for cleaning up the mess, paying for plumbing repair, and cleaning up and paying for water damage or sewage leaks.

Every lease is different, and before you sign a legally binding lease contract, it’s important to note what your responsibilities are, and which ones are your landlord’s. However, even though there are differences among some leases, there are several things that are governed by landlord-tenant laws and regulations that are fairly universal.

So, when disaster strikes, and you need emergency plumbing repair, here’s what you need to know about cleaning up the mess!

The Landlord Is Responsible for Maintaining the Functionality of the Home

In all states, laws require the landlord to maintain the livability of the home. This includes the functional parts of the home, like the plumbing system, electrical wiring and electricity, and the heating and air conditioning units. In general, landlords are also responsible for incidents of flooding, clogged pipes, pest infestations, or any other problems that occur to make the home unlivable or reduce its ability to stay sanitary, such as sewage back-ups.

Many times, simply communicating with your landlord and submitting a maintenance request can take care of the problem. Make sure that you check your lease for the correct method of submitting repair requests or if you need emergency plumbing repair, so you know what to do when the worst happens.

There are a few things that cover which party is responsible for what. Your lease agreement may indicate that you’re responsible for maintaining the yard and outdoor spaces, which can include regular watering and making sure that the sprinkler system is working. Sprinkler heads can break easily, especially in the summer when you’re mowing a lot.

State and local building codes also regulate who has the responsibility for fixing things in the home.

Minor Issues and Repair Requests

For small things, like a clogged toilet or slow draining sink, you may simply wish to complete the repair yourself. However, some landlords have certain plumbing repair companies that they prefer to use. Property managers that manage the rental of several homes or apartment complexes and multi-family homes may choose to use the same company and have billing arrangements or a discount system set up.

Other times, depending on your lease, fixing problems that you created is your responsibility. Things like a drain clog that you’ve caused by flushing things that shouldn’t be flushed (like baby wipes, paper towels, feminine care products, or condoms) or from putting a chunk of food or cooking grease in the kitchen sink (don’t do that!) may be on you, the tenant, to fix.

Large Plumbing Repair Needs

Sometimes, the pipes themselves just give out, whether it’s from age, the seams and joining coming loose, tree root issues, or improperly removed clogs. For example, harsh chemical drain cleaners can wear out the material of the pipes and cause them to burst.

For a burst pipe, many times it’s the landlord’s responsibility to fix. Sub-freezing temperatures can cause water in the pipes to freeze, and this expansion can break the pipe, resulting in a flooded home. Even for people who are extremely careful to prevent freezing pipes, such as keeping the water running overnight, wrapping pipes in towels for warmth, and opening cabinets to allow the warm air in the home to keep the pipes warm, broken pipes can just be a fact of life in the wintertime.

Things You Definitely Should Fix

Small things, such as changing lightbulbs or the batteries in the smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitors, are your responsibility to fix. Keeping all the appliances clean is also your responsibility, even if they came with the unit. The walls, floors, bathrooms, and kitchens are also your responsibility to clean and, when you move out, the home should be in the same condition it was when you moved in.

Disposing of trash and not making alterations to the building are also on you, as is fixing any damage that your actions (or those of pets and visitors) directly caused.

Things Your Landlord Definitely Should Fix

There are some things you definitely should leave to the landlord and their preferred vendor or plumbing repair contractor. Thing like fixing a nail hole are usually on you but replacing a broken window on your own isn’t. While you may have to pay for the repair, the landlord may have a certain kind of window that matches the rest of the house or the apartment building.

Large-scale plumbing repairs, such as jetting pies and sewer clog removal, typically are the landlord’s responsibility.

Things You Can Probably Take Care of On Your Own

There are a few grey areas for renting a house or apartment. Things like a loose doorknob, having a toilet snaked, or fixing sprinkler heads, you can probably take care of yourself. Other things, like a new appliance, you may wish to purchase for yourself and store the one that came with the unit (check your lease to make sure you can do this).

There’s another kind of situation, called the “repair and deduct” method, wherein you can pay for the repairs or upgrades in the apartment or house, and the landlord will deduct those expenses from your owed rent. Things such as a leaky roof, no hot water, or a gas leak are examples of things that may be eligible for this method of fixing.

If this applies to you, be sure that you document everything, including before-and-after photos and all receipts. Submit the quote that the plumbing repair or other company gives you to your landlord before you commit to a repair.

bluefrog Plumbing + Drain Is Here for You!

When you have an emergency repair, call us right away. At bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, we have professional plumbing repair teams on standby for after-hours emergencies. Or, if you need a quote for a regular repair, visit us online or give us a call. We offer transparent, custom quotes for any plumbing repair.

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