Who Is Responsible for Plumbing Maintenance & Repairs?
When it comes down to plumbing maintenance every tenant renting their first apartment or freshly minted landlord on the verge of leasing to their first tenant wants to who is responsible, even seasoned renters and landlords struggle with finding reliable answers to the question posed above.
Landlord-tenant relationships are some of the most interesting relationship you will ever find. Like all commercial relationships, they are filled with contradictions. On one hand, there is interdependence between buyer and seller, but on the other hand, there is also mutual distrust.
The majority of renters and landlords understand this to be the nature of the relationship, and somehow manage to work things out. But for some, the issues are allowed to escalate to the point where they eclipse the benefits that each party gets from the relationship.
One of the main areas where these conflicts arise is in the allocation of responsibility for plumbing maintenance in the home. Given the importance of water for human health and the high risk of water damage and plumbing issues in a home, this is a real problem.
It is completely normal for landlords or tenants to want to shift the burden of caring for this vital aspect of the home to the other party. But as in all situations, where two parties fail to reach an agreement on a dispute, a middle ground drawn by a neutral third-party can help.
This is what this post is about. It explains in simple terms how the law approaches plumbing issues in a rental property. It explains each side’s roles and assigns responsibility with fairness and clarity. Following these recommendations can help eliminate arguments over the home’s plumbing.
Guidelines for dealing with plumbing maintenance in rental properties
The law makes the maintenance and repair of the plumbing in a rental property the responsibility of both landlord and tenant. However, the landlord bears most of the burden. Here are the details of how that works.
Based on the Implied Warranty of Habitability, the landlord is assumed to have given the tenant an unspoken assurance that the home is in a habitable condition when they leased it to the tenant. As a landlord, once you lease your home to a tenant, it is assumed that the home is livable.
Among the things that make a home livable are the presence of clean water and sanitation. The law expects that not only must the home have adequate plumbing and sanitary facilities, these components must be working to the tenant’s satisfaction at the time of tenant move-in.
Secondly, the law expects that after the tenant moves in, the landlord must keep the home in the same livable state that it was in before the tenant moved in. The reason is that the home belongs to the landlord and if the tenant was not living in it, the owner would still maintain it.
This means that the owner must:
- Attend to all wear and tear issues which arise from the proper use of the home’s plumbing. In other words, if something is damaged because it has worn out or reached the end of its useful life, the landlord is expected to fix it.
- Attend to all emergencies that the tenant brings to the owner’s attention. Emergencies are issues that threaten the habitability of the home; problems that, if not urgently dealt with, can make it impossible for the tenant to remain in the home.
To balance the responsibilities, landlords also have their rights: Garbage Disposal Tips to Avoid a Holiday Plumbing Emergency
- Landlords have a right to expect responsible use of the home’s plumbing by the tenant. The tenant cannot damage the plumbing through misuse or negligence.
- Landlords have a right to be informed, in a timely and accurate manner, of all plumbing emergency and repairs.
The law expects the following from the tenants:
- The tenant is responsible for the proper use of the home’s plumbing. Any damage which is the result of the tenant’s neglectful or malicious use of the plumbing will be paid for by the tenant. Such as when tenants flush hard objects down the drain.
- The tenant is responsible for protecting the landlord’s property from damage in the event of a plumbing emergency. For instance, if a pipe bursts, the tenant is expected to shut-off the water supply and keep the home from being flooded.
- The tenant, being the party in close and constant contact with the plumbing, has the responsibility to inform the landlord, in a timely and accurate manner, of all plumbing problems. Where the tenant fails to do this, they will be partly liable for the damage.
- The tenant is responsible for their own belongings. In the event of a plumbing emergency, it is the tenant’s responsibility to protect their personal belongings from water damage. The landlord will not be liable for damage to the tenant’s belongings.
Finally, the tenant has the right to have their complaints about the plumbing adequately attended to by the landlord. Where the landlord fails to do this, the tenants has the right to withhold the rent, move out or initiate a lawsuit.