Plumbing issues… Is it a tenant’s or landlord’s problem?

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A plumbing issue can be the cause of Hollywood-worthy moments and not in a good way, or at least, not in a way that you might find amusing at the time. Just think if you are renting your home and the contract doesn’t say anything about not being allowed to hang new mirrors or pictures on the wall. As you hit the nail into your bathroom wall for the new mirror you pierce the pipe behind it and instead of a new mirror, you have a new shower. The waterworks might not be your fault. If the gardening service that comes in once a week happens to hit a pipe, you just might have a very unwanted fountain in your backyard that will have to be sorted out as soon as possible.


Ultimately, a home is a living thing. The pipes will wear and tear over time. You might hear them moan, groan and stutter and one day a fixing has reached the end of its lifetime and it needs to be replaced. The question is: When you are renting, who is responsible and who pays for it? There are some logical answers, but at the end of the day, however, it will come down to the contract and what was agreed upon.


What does the contract say?

It is absolutely imperative that a landlord and tenant sign a properly detailed contract. The contract will include the responsibilities of both landlord and tenant should something in the house break or get damaged. Contracts can differ as individual landlords and tenants might want different things stipulated and agreed to, but generally, the contract will clear up who the responsible party is for the situations above.

More often than not, the contract will state that the landlord is responsible for the basic upkeep of the leased property. If the geyser starts leaking or bursts, the fixings get old and leak, the sewage pipe backs up through no fault of the tenant, the landlord will have to sort out the issue or get professionals to do so. In many old homes, the sub-terrestrial piping system is still clay pipes that get cracked, broken or blocked by growing tree roots. This too will be the landlord’s problem to fix.


If the tenant was the one to cause the damage, in an attempt to hang a new mirror for example, then it should be the tenant’s responsibility to have it fixed. The gardening service damaging water pipes can be a bit of a tricky situation and this is where the contract’s wording will also play a key role. It might be the case that the landlord is responsible for the upkeep of the garden and thus any damage they do to the pipes is the landlord’s responsibility. If the tenant gave instructions to have a hole dug and something planted, though, an argument could be made that it’s the tenant’s problem.


Communication between the landlord and tenant is very important. The moment the tenant notices potentially worrisome wear and tear, the landlord should be informed so he/she can act proactively. The landlord should also add inspection periods to the contract and if he/she notices damage to the house, sort it out with the tenant as soon as possible.


Make it easy and add a middleman

Agency services can add a cost and admin to the leasing of a home for both the tenant and landlord, but the savings in hassle, confusion, and frustration is usually worth it.


Firstly, the agency will run a background check on any potential tenant. If he/she has a bad credit record or any other issues, chances are the agent will not let the property be rented out to those individuals.


Secondly, they will ensure that the contract clears up any uncertainty concerning the party that has to take responsibility for the various aspects of a house and things that can happen.


Thirdly, an agent will take responsibility for inspecting the house on a regular (agreed upon) basis and also keep a record of what has changed, what’s been broken, what has reached the end of its lifetime and so forth ensuring that no miscommunication or blame-shifting takes place between the landlord and tenant.


Fourthly, the agent will ensure that both the tenant and landlord adhere to the contract.


Final thoughts

While plumbing issues can cause a major headache for both the tenant and landlord, it needn’t if you have the right contract and guidance in place.