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sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? - Landlord Forum thread 208025

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sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? by Jenny (TX) on September 5, 2010 @00:54

The tenant reported that the toilet had sewer water backup and flooded half of the house before they found out.

The tenant said they noticed slow drainage problem for sometime but didn't bother to report, just tried something themselves.

The plumber found the pipe was blocked deep underground (80 feet deep) and nothing unusual there, so he couldn't testify it is tenant's misuse.

Due to the fact that tenant didn't report the issue in time, I had big loss on this one (plumbing, sanitize, replace carpet etc, total $3000). I think tenant should at least be partially responsible for the cost, but my PM didn't think I had a case. The tenant refused to pay anything, said they would sue me at small claim court if I charge them.

I would like to know:
1. What is the law in TX? Is plumbing landlord's responsibility?

2. The tenant didn't report the issue in time. Otherwise, I just need to pay $200 plumber fee, instead of $3000 due to the accident. Do I have a case here?

What should I do in this case?

Thanks a lot!

[ Reply ] [ Return to forum ]

Re: sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? by OK-LL on September 5, 2010 @09:04 [ Reply ]
You got scammed big-time by your contractors! A brown-water backup should not cost $3K to clean. Walls/floors and other affected areas would have merely required cleaning with a final once-over with a bleach-water solution, and the carpets would have required pad be pulled, carpet cleaned, new pad laid and carpet restretched. Would have been under $1K if it involved 1000 SF.

I don't believe the LL/T statute addresses plumbing directly, but you should google it to see. What does your lease say about responsibility for plumbing stoppages? Mine says I'm giving tenant the plumbing in good working order and it is their job to keep it that way. What does your lease say about collateral damage from slow/no reporting? Mine says it is the tenant's responsibility to promptly notify LL of all maintenance issues, whether tenant or LL's responsiblity. This allows me to keep up with what's been done by the tenant on my maintenance logs for each property.

Re: sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? by Jack (NY) on September 5, 2010 @09:09 [ Reply ]
Did you ever hear anyone talk about how the law favors the tenants? The reason for that is because it does.

In a perfect world, the tenant might say,
"Hey Jenny, I'm sorry, I should have informed you sooner about the backup, but I wasn't home, and the back-up wasn't my fault, and it wasn't your fault either, so please let me pay for at least half!"

But in this world the law does favor the tenant and unless you have a lease (LPA Lease) that protects you for specific things, you are at an even bigger disadvantage.

Should you charge the tenant? It depends.
a. Does your lease require the tenant to have Renters Insurance?
b. Does your lease have a Plumbing Stoppage clause which makkes the tenant fully responsible for all plumbibg stoppages and clean-ups?

Re: sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? by Eric (MN) on September 5, 2010 @09:40 [ Reply ]
Ask yourself this. If you were living there, would the outcome be any different?

If the blockage was 80 feet down (I am guessing 80 feet from the toilet, not 80 feet deep), how long had the clog been there. It may have started years ago. When did the tenant move in?

Where did this water come from, only the house, or from the City sewer system? If from the house, maybe you have a claim. If from outside, it's yours. If this is a multi-faily property it's yours too.

It could have been a clog started years ago, and not (initially) related to a tenants actions.

File a claim with your own insurance, if you do not have enough money to cover it. If they have renters insurance, that may help, but the claim may be denied too.

I find it a stretch that a Judge would award you, the rich landlord, money, but who knows. A leaking sink, maybe, a sewage backup, doubt it.

Re: sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? by CH (NY) on September 5, 2010 @13:03 [ Reply ]
I'm surprised it's only $3k.
Re: sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? by LL (CA) on September 5, 2010 @16:35 [ Reply ]
My lease now says tenants are responsible to pay for blockages they cause, but they are also liable for damage to my property if they do not notify me of slow drainage which results in overflow. The fact that they chose not to notify you of a plumbing problem which then resulted in damage makes them at least partially responsible for the resulting damage.

Don't ever fear small claims court. Let them sue you. I've found judges to be a lot more fair in determining a reasonable solution to a problem like this, and I live in California. lol

Re: sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? by Jake on September 5, 2010 @17:14 [ Reply ]
I always say that every tenant will teach you something. This tenant taught you that you did not have this type of issue nailed down in your lease.
Re: sewer water backup, should I charge tenant? by A Tenant (TX) on September 8, 2010 @02:50 [ Reply ]
80ft deep sewage, consider it effectuate and that tenant isn't responsible for it after it's flushed down that far unless it has tenants name written by tenant on it and survived the flush. That in which actualized and flooded, if tenant didn't report it in a timely manner it's tenants problem. Contact a rental attorney.

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