Can landlords charge tenants for plumbing repairs?

Both property owners and tenants want an answer to this question. But there is no straightforward answer to it. On the one hand, a landlord cannot charge tenants for plumbing repairs. On the other hand, there are times when landlords must charge tenants for plumbing repairs.

This will sound contradictory if you don’t understand the rules guiding this aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship. In this short guide, we explain how landlords can negotiate plumbing issues in a rental to avoid conflict with tenants

Why this is important

In every relationship, clarity about each person’s role is important. Clearly defined roles frame expectations; they build trust and minimize conflict. Without transparency, relationships fail.

This is particularly true for relationships where the interests of both parties clash. Lack of clarity is the main reason why landlord-tenant relationships are rarely cordial.

Even though they need each other, landlords and tenants often view one another with mutual distrust. As Taylor Street, a Phoenix property management company, explains, this is usually because the rules guiding the association are not clearly explained from the beginning.

Defining the rules will allow landlords and their tenants to make the most of their relationship. Tenants know they are getting the best for their money. And landlords will not feel that tenants are making unreasonable demands.

Instead of mutual distrust, each one can view the other with respect. This will facilitate the tenant’s enjoyment of the property and landlords can make the most of their investment.

Landlords’ role in plumbing maintenanc

Landlords are legally bound to make their rental apartments habitable. They must ensure that a home is livable before they turn it over to tenants. In addition, they must maintain it in a livable condition for the duration of the tenant’s stay.

A home is said to be livable when it is adequately supplied with water, heating, electricity, and there are no structural defects. The livability of the property must be to the satisfaction of the tenant. And if the tenant feels that the property is no longer livable, they may leave without penalties, refuse to pay rent, or take legal action against the property owner.

The landlord’s responsibility to ensure the habitability of a rental falls into two parts: before the tenants move-in and while the tenant lives in the property.

Landlord’s pre-tenancy plumbing responsibilitie

Before accepting tenants into an apartment, owners must ensure the availability of potable water, warm water, heating during cold weather, electricity that is in working order, functioning bathroom & toilets, and good sanitary conditions.

They are also expected to do the following: check taps, seals, and pipes for drips or leaks; check that water is draining properly; check for signs of corrosion; check water heaters, hot water cylinders, and all gas appliances; and check the condition of radiators.

Landlord’s plumbing responsibilities during the tenancy

Even while a tenant lives in the property, the responsibility for maintaining the plumbing still belongs to the property owner. This is because the home and its components belong to the landlord.

This is also because the tenant is paying the landlord for the privilege of living in the apartment. The owner’s plumbing responsibilities can be divided into plumbing emergencies and routine maintenance.

  • Plumbing emergencies affect the livability of a rental. They include problems such as burst water pipes, dripping faucets, and running toilets; low water pressure or no water in the kitchen; broken water heater; clogged drains and toilets, and sewer issues. Landlords are expected to address these problems immediately
  • Routine plumbing maintenance does not depend on the incidence of a plumbing emergency. They are part of the owner’s overall maintenance of the property. Routine maintenance also involves dealing with those plumbing repairs which do not affect the livability of a rental.

Since landlords are responsible for plumbing emergencies, and, routine plumbing maintenance does it mean they bear the burden for all plumbing issues? The answer is no; tenants also have their own responsibilities.

Tenant’s plumbing maintenance responsibilities in a rental property

There are two principles that guide tenants’ plumbing responsibilities. Firstly, tenants are responsible for the plumbing issues they create. Secondly, everything belonging to a tenant is the tenant’s responsibility. These can be broken down into:

  • If the home’s plumbing is damaged as a result of a tenant’s actions, the tenant will pay the landlord to do the necessary repairs.
  • If any of a tenant’s belongings cause damage to the home’s plumbing, the tenant will bear the cost of repairing the damage.
  • Tenants are responsible for bringing problems with a home’s plumbing systems to the landlord’s attention, in a timely fashion. If the tenant fails to do this, they will become partly responsible for fixing the damage.
  • The tenant is responsible for protecting their own belongings during a plumbing emergency. For instance, if pipes burst and the tenant does not remove their clothes from the path of the water; the landlord will not be responsible for any damage to the tenant’s clothes