I didn't authorize this plumber.
March 25, 2009 12:00 AM   Subscribe

I was recently out of the country on vacation. The tenants at my rental property had a plumbing emergency while I was unreachable, and I suspect they were taken advantage of. What options do I have?

While I was on vacation, my tenants had a leak under the sink. Since they could not get a hold of me*, they called a plumber on their own. Unfortunately, they called the most disreputable plumber in town (based on online reviews and a bad experience of my own), and ended up paying $450 for the repair, which strikes me as fishy.

My tenant said that when he called the plumber, they initially said that they couldn't come out without my authorization as the landlord. My tenant said that if they didn't come, he would call another plumber and claim to be the landlord. The plumber called back 5 minutes later and said they'd left a message at my work number, (They hadn't.) and that they'd come out.

They came out, my tenant paid them in cash. My tenant also signed both a "Work Authorization" and a "Acceptance of Work Performed". Of course I'm not going to stiff my tenants on this, but I'm wondering if I have any recourse with the plumber based on the fact that they were not authorized to come out and do work without my permission, and they knew it, and they came anyway.

I suspect that the plumber will tell me that my only option is to take it up with the tenants, but I wanted to check in here to see if I could get some better information.

*I've learned my lesson. I'm going to provide my tenants with an alternate emergency contact, plus ensure that they know who my preferred plumber is.
posted by puddleglum to Law & Government (7 answers total)
What state is this in? State laws are key. I see you're in Seattle WA but I'm not sure if the tenants are there too.
posted by crapmatic at 12:16 AM on March 25, 2009

Unfortunately, they called the most disreputable plumber in town

Learning experience. Chalk it up.

I suspect that the plumber will tell me that my only option is to take it up with the tenants

No. Because if he tells you anything it's going to be "Go fuck yourself" because he's already been paid and chances are there is no statute on the books designed to protect you the landlord in this type of instance... which is why every other landlord in the world makes sure he has emergency contact info... which you already know by now.
posted by wfrgms at 12:18 AM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: crapmatic, both landlord (me) and tenant are in the Seattle metro area.
posted by puddleglum at 12:56 AM on March 25, 2009

Ask the plumber for a receipt. That should cause him enough trouble, but be legal enough so that you can't expect him to say "fuck you" and get away with it.

In the future, you might want to add emergency plumber numbers in the lease and make an arrangement with them in advance.

Memail me and tell me how this works out.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:33 AM on March 25, 2009

I'd ask for a receipt. Then I'd call another plumbing company and get a bid for the same job. If there's much of a price difference, let the first plumber know you'd like the difference back, or you'll report him to the better business bureau and to the state's consumer fraud office (if there is one. Oregon has one through DOJ.)

I don't know if the plumber is likely to care about these things, but you might have some success.
posted by Happydaz at 1:44 AM on March 25, 2009

If you do actually compare prices with another plumber, make sure that the number the new plumber gives you includes the markup for emergency response, otherwise you'll be comparing apples to oranges.
posted by crankylex at 6:40 AM on March 25, 2009

Best answer: Rather than being ultra snarky before my morning cup o' coffee, I'm merely enthusiastically seconding wfgrms. When I had a window blow out in a windstorm a few years ago the night before Christmas Eve, I'm sure I didn't get his best price either. Big whoop, such are emergencies. Thankfully my landlord took it in stride.
posted by rhizome at 9:18 AM on March 25, 2009

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