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Plumbing Issues
June 7, 2012 4:21 PM   Subscribe

S*!t Storm, literally

I'm in a rental house in Oregon, and we've been having a plumbing issue. Every time we run the washer, sewage backs up into the bathtub and toilet. My landlord keeps saying he "will call his buddy", but hasn't pulled through. I'm tired of mopping up shit from the bathroom floor, so we've got a real plumber on his way.
So, there's a provision in my lease that states "landlord is not responsible for any plumbing clog caused by the tenant or tenant's guest"... My partner is wholly confused about how this will work out payment wise. How are we supposed to know if we caused a clog? Will the plumber tell us something like "stop flushing diapers and whole heads of lettuce" (we haven't)? What if my landlord says tough shit, it's you who has to pay?
posted by ohmansocute to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Find out cause of issue. Take multiple pictures. Use this visual proof to convince landlord to pay.
posted by raisingsand at 4:29 PM on June 7, 2012


It's much more likely you've either got tree roots in your sewer line or a blocked roof vent causing a vacuum, neither of which is likely to have been done by you. If it was a straight-line issue (sink won't drain, toilet won't flush), that's usually an inside job, but if water goes out one drain and in another, it's a systemic issue.

Now if they scope the drains and find whole heads of lettuce in there, you can't really blame a previous tenant for that. I've heard of worse - beach towels, plastic grocery bags - but it's really much more likely either a build-up of organic matter or infiltration.

Obviously, don't have the plumber do any work without the landlord's authority, or it will likely be entirely your liability. On the other hand, if he says "I can snake this for $50 and be done in half an hour and you're all good" I consider that sort of thing money well spent whether I'm reimbursed or not.

(All plumbers will give you the Eyeball and ask if you flush tampons. But I think that's more of a crusade than an attempt to blame you specifically.)
posted by Lyn Never at 4:42 PM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, there's a provision in my lease that states "landlord is not responsible for any plumbing clog caused by the tenant or tenant's guest"... My partner is wholly confused about how this will work out payment wise. How are we supposed to know if we caused a clog? Will the plumber tell us something like "stop flushing diapers and whole heads of lettuce" (we haven't)? What if my landlord says tough shit, it's you who has to pay?

I live in Portland, and I've dealt with this before. Specifically the water was backing up in the pipe to the sewer and flooding our basement. Happened twice. The first clog was found to be from years of buildup, no charge. Second time they found one of those disposable Swiffer mop things, and we had to pay.

As for how quickly the landlord has to fix this: it depends where you are. IANAL. I know for Portland that the landlord has either 24 or 48 hours to get someone out to fix it. A lot of the areas near Portland require similar or the same, or else the landlord can get penalized greatly. Check with the local housing authority for the city or county.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:50 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been weeks; we had the plumber out here and the landlord got really defensive (he lives next door). The plumber couldn't fix it and didn't really want to because the landlord was making him feel uncomfortable. He said it was a clog far, far down the line.
posted by ohmansocute at 6:39 PM on June 7, 2012


Will the plumber tell us something like "stop flushing diapers and whole heads of lettuce" (we haven't)?

Get a plumber out there and get him to fix the plumbing. Do not let the landlord in - he's had his chance.

The plumber should be able to identify the cause of the buildup, and if it is old diapers and you don't have a diaper-wearing baby, then you should be off the hook.

Take legal action against your landlord for 1) the cost of repairs done by the plumber 2) hourly rates spent cleaning up shit from your bathroom 3) time of having to arrange repairs when he refused to.

If you'd like, inform your landlord you will be taking these steps - my landlord commonly breaks the law and puts things off, but after about three ignored requests for repairs I let them know the situation is illegal under x statute and I will be taking legal action unless it is repaired/thoroughly evaluated by a professional by x date. That has worked every time.

How would you feel about moving? If he keeps putting this off you can claim that his negligence in this matter has caused an unsafe (because, dur, sewage) living environment. Use this to break the lease and, perhaps, ask for a refund of rent for, perhaps two weeks after you initially reported this problem or something.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:13 PM on June 7, 2012


Wait, is a different plumber coming? Other than the one who said it couldn't be fixed?

If it is a different plumber, I'd get his diagnosis, and assuming that's something that you couldn't have caused (diapers etc) then have the plumber write the cause of the leak on the invoice he gives you for the fix, and deduct that amount from the rent. Include a copy of the invoice with the reduced rent check.

If it can't be fixed then I can't see a solution other than moving.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:22 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weeks???? Move out ASAP! Your landlord doesn't give a damn about you having to mop SHIT out of your BATHTUB! How are you supposed to BATHE if there is SHIT? For weeks! It's inhumane!

If that isn't a good solution, then ask your landlord if you can bathe in his shit-less bathtub until he fixes the fucking problem.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:06 PM on June 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fuck, we just signed a new lease. You guys are right.
posted by ohmansocute at 9:22 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tree roots in plumbing often equals sewage backing up into the house. Your landlord is dragging his feet because it's going to be thousands of dollars most likely to get that sorted out. He's probably going to try to outlast you and then either sell or get another person to sign a lease. Unfortunately you may have to call it and break your lease, that is unless there is some way to have the lease nullified due to the landlord failing to provide adequate sanitation facilities. Big YMMV there though. Good luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 4:49 AM on June 8, 2012


Call your local health department and building inspection department, tell them that raw sewage is coming into your house and that your landlord won't do anything. It's a very serious health code violation, they can condemn the house.
posted by mareli at 5:50 AM on June 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


These people have a hotline and have almost certainly dealt with this exact situation before. Call them and ask what your rights are. In MA if you have an issue like this for long enough you can have a contractor fix it yourself and just deduct the bill from your next rent check. You may or may not have that kind of power in OR but the Tenant's Union will be able to tell you if you do.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:24 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are you on public sewer or septic? this is very important on resolving this issue and maybe on reason why the landlord is defensive. A new septic system, or hook up to public system (required in oregon if you are in range of a public system) can be very expensive and most landlords seem to be cheapskates. Dont bother with your health department, call your public works/building department if you live inside an urban growth boundary. If you don't you are on septic and then you need to call the sanitarian/health department. If you are having backup from the public system or from a block in the lateral in the public right of way it is the cities problem,but they will require you to prove it by using a licensed plumber to find it out. But either way you can break your lease with the whole "shit in the bathtub" problem and your landlord not fixing it, I don't think a court is going to find in the landlords favor. For this a letter from a lawyer to your landlord can work wonders.
posted by bartonlong at 10:33 AM on June 8, 2012


Update! We had a plumber come out today, one that the landlords called. Well he snaked the line, which wouldn't drain, and pulled out a baby wipe. Immediately the landlord was blaming us after saying they had a plumber out every year, for each tenant. The plumber said he would hose the line, for free. Well, the sweetest plumber alive came back with the power hose, and found a BROKEN PIPE. The landlords are digging it up themselves, right now, to save themselves some money. Ha.
posted by ohmansocute at 8:24 PM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


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