Have you been forcing yourself to “deal with” a pesky plumbing problem because you’re afraid your landlord is going to make you pay to fix it? Considering most plumbers charge between $45-$200 per hour, it’s no wonder you’ve been putting off reporting the issue. But putting off a repair issue is a costly mistake.
The longer you ignore the problem, the worse it will get and you risk water damage to your apartment. Not only that, but it is also unnecessary. In most cases, your landlord is responsible for plumbing repairs.
Who Pays the Plumber? Me or The Landlord?
The simple answer to this question is that, in most cases, your landlord is responsible for plumbing repairs. There are instances when you may be charged, but we’ll cover those later. For now, let’s discuss your landlord’s responsibilities.
Landlords are required by law to provide habitable living conditions. Due to building code differences between states, the term “habitable conditions” may mean something different depending on where you live. However, regardless of the state, at a minimum, all landlords must provide housing that is safe, secure, and free of pests. In most states, these minimum standards include:
The unit must have working plumbing and proper sewage disposal mechanisms.
The heating and cooling system is critical to maintaining appropriate indoor temperatures. A landlord must provide HVAC is in working order and complies with local building codes.
An electrical problem could be a very serious issue that could result in electrical shock or fire. All electrical systems must be functioning up to code ordinances.
Tenants are entitled to housing that is structurally sound in that the unit must:
- Be weatherproof
- Have no broken windows or doors
- Have safe walkways, stairways and entryways
As a tenant, you are entitled to a unit that is sanitary and free of pests. The landlord must keep the exterior of the housing free of debris and must provide proper waste disposal facilities.
What to Do If You Have a Plumbing Problem When You are Renting
Some plumbing problems are unavoidable. The first step is to minimize damage to the unit. Depending on the issue, you may need to turn off the water supply at the fixture to prevent flooding.
Next, immediately report the issue to your landlord using whatever process they’ve outlined. You may be required to either call a maintenance phone number, complete a paper form or make a request online. When reporting the issue, provide as much detail as possible. That way, the repair person can be better prepared to troubleshoot the issue once they arrive.
Keep notes of when you reported the issue. In most states, property managers have up to 30 days to respond to your request. Most times, the landlord will respond quickly to address the issue. If not, however, you may need to take additional measures to get things resolved. Having detailed notes will come in handy should you need to take further action.
Why Am I Being Charged for Repairs?
As we mentioned earlier, your landlord is responsible for plumbing repairs. However, that doesn’t get you off the hook for damages you cause intentionally or due to neglect. In those cases, the landlord could very well send you the repair bill.
My Landlord Won’t Fix My Plumbing Issue, What Should I Do?
If your landlord refuses to repair the issue, you have several options available. Which option you choose depends on the severity of the issue and how long you’ve been dealing with the problem.
In general, you should start with less confrontational strategies. The more serious action you take, the more you risk straining your relationship with your landlord.
A neutral third party can be helpful in getting your landlord to repair your plumbing issue. There are a variety of free and low-cost mediation services available to tenants. The mediator will contact your landlord and arrange a meeting for each of you to discuss the issue and come to a resolution. Ideally, mediation should be your first step in resolving things.
Report Code Violations
If mediation does not resolve the matter, you may need to report the landlord to the local housing authority. The housing authority will investigate the matter and contact the landlord if any violations are found.
Repair and Deduct
According to South Carolina law, you may be able to hire a certified plumber to perform the repairs and deduct the cost from your rent. The repair and deduct option is not applicable to every situation. You can only use this strategy for issues that affect the habitability of the unit. Thus, you can’t use repair and deduct for minor issues or normal wear and tear defects. Using this strategy for unnecessary items could get you evicted.
If you wish to use this strategy, you’ll need to follow the process outlined by your state’s laws. In general, you are required to send written notice to the landlord explaining the issue. The notice should include a cost estimate and a deadline by which they must respond. Your notice should also state that if the landlord does not respond by the deadline, that you intend to withhold the repair costs from your rent.
South Carolina law also allows you to withhold rent to encourage the landlord to address the matter. You may be required to pay your rent into an escrow account during the time you are withholding payment. Doing so shows good faith that you aren’t simply using this option to avoid paying rent.
Should all else fail, you may need to bring legal action against your landlord. It is important to follow your state’s guidelines for initiating a lawsuit. You’ll need to provide adequate documentation of the issue. Additionally, you must be able to show the steps you took to resolve the matter before initiating legal action.
Common Plumbing Problems and How to Avoid Them
The best way to avoid worrying over plumbing repair issues is to avoid them in the first place. While some issues are unavoidable, there are some things you can do to minimize the chances of something going wrong.
Clogged Drains and Toilets
A clogged drain occurs when something partially or completely blocks the flow of water. Blockages occur due to foreign objects being placed down the drain or toilet. To prevent this problem, avoid putting non-biodegradable items in the toilet. You should also install hair catchers in the sink and shower drains to prevent clogs.
A running toilet indicates a problem with the inner workings of the toilet. Sometimes the flapper valve or the fill tube malfunctions which causes water to constantly run in the toilet. This problem doesn’t always require a licensed plumber to address. You can attempt to fix this yourself by adjusting the float to ensure the flapper valve shuts properly. While you can’t always prevent this problem, your best bet is awareness. If you notice your toilet constantly running longer than normal, you should alert your landlord right away.
A leak at the faucet is usually the result of damage to the seal on the handle. A broken seal is a normal part of wear and tear on the faucet. However, you can preserve the life of the faucet by being careful when turning it on or off.