Who should pay for retiling the bathroom?
August 26, 2014 12:30 AM   Subscribe

My tiles have fallen off in the bathroom, and it looks like the whole lot will need replacing. Who should pay for this?

I am in the UK, renting. We don't have a security deposit, as it is understood that we will fix most problems: when the shower broke we had to sort it out. However, I know that there are some landlords have (and we do have a fairly standard written contract). The tiles in the bathroom are loose from the wall, and several have fallen off. I am pretty sure the whole lot will need to come off and be replaced. Is it my landlords legal responsibility to pay for this?
posted by Cannon Fodder to Home & Garden (22 answers total)
Regardless of the who is the legally one required to do anything,take photos of everything and bag up samples if possible of crumbling tile cement. Jus' sayin'.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:34 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you want to redo all the tiling? Will you be responsible for any damage to the walls behind the tiles if the shower is not retiled? Are you planning on staying for more than a few years? No? Then buy a tube of silicone and stick the fallen ones back on and leave the rest alone.
posted by Kerasia at 12:55 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think there is a difference between a shower head and tiles falling off the wall. I would contact the CAB for advice.
posted by devnull at 1:25 AM on August 26, 2014

Huh. I don't know about legal responsibility and "We don't have a security deposit, as it is understood that we will fix most problems" seems sketchy. If you move out and someone else is contemplating moving in the someone else moving in will likely want the shower surround to be sound so maybe you can talk to your landlord in those terms or perhaps in terms of mitigating water damage to her property.

I was a remodeler for ten years and even one loose tile means there has been water infiltration and it's a matter of time before the rest become loose so in my experience you are correct in assuming "the whole lot will need to come off and be replaced".

Water damage is a boon to remodelers and the longer you let it go the more it is going to cost someone. Your landlord is benefitting from anyone who lives there and water damage is expensive.

It seems to me that there might be a quality of life issue for you that is outweighed by a property value issue for the property owner.

I think they should fix it.
posted by vapidave at 1:31 AM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

My recommendation would to write or email your landlord with an explanation of the problem accompanied by photo evidence. You might offer to arrange for the job to be done, forward copies of invoices to your landlord and then deduct the amount you have spent from a future month's rent. That way the landlord pays - not you, you don't have the potential problem of the landlord disputing repairs you have had carried out which might be in breach of your tenancy and the landlord need not take any further action to get the situation fixed.

Some landlords might insist that they pay for the work directly since they can offset this on their tax return.
posted by rongorongo at 1:54 AM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

No security deposit because you'll fix most problems? Seems incredibly trusting of the landlord but also potentially a scam so they can get away with letting you live in a crap-hole because it's "your responsibility" to repair stuff.

I would definitely tell the landlord under the expectation that there might be a significant amount of work required (re-tiling the whole bathroom) and that would be their job.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:22 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know what's required of your landlord, but I can't imagine you being responsible for retiling a bathroom. I've known a couple of people who have lived in a house *for free* while fixing it up (including myself, come to think of it), but doing repairs that go much beyond changing a light bulb are not typically a tenant's responsibility unless something was broken through negligence.

Are the loose tiles inside the shower, where their absence is both evidence of water damage and likely to worsen said water damage? Or are these tiled walls out in the room, where this is just a cosmetic problem?

There's no way I would undertake major remodeling for my landlord unless he was somehow paying me to do so. In your position, I'd inform the landlord in writing of the issue, and keep records/evidence of having done so. If the landlord seemed to expect me to fix it, I'd tell him that the best I can do is an unattractive temporary patch involving a bit of glue squeezed from a tube. If he asked me to contact a contractor or go any further with repairs, I would decline. If the failing tiles were in the shower and the landlord seemed uninterested in having them fixed at his own expense, I'd start thinking about where I wanted to live next, because I'd be moving out before very long.
posted by jon1270 at 2:35 AM on August 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, if you've never tiled before, it is a pain in the arse. It's entirely possible to learn how to do it off Youtube (I did*), but it's still a tricky task the first time you do it, not an easy fix like other DIY stuff.

And if it turns out there's a damp problem and your new tiles fall off, you've wasted your time and money fixing it.

*Mostly though, I learned that I hate tiling and never want to do it again.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:44 AM on August 26, 2014

It is the landlord's property, not yours. Small repairs like fixing taps is one thing but do not improve the fabric of their property with your money. Establish a price limit (say £25) on repairs you carry out at your own expense. I am pretty sure your landlord is doing this because it is not being reported as taxable income and such expenses (which are tax deductible) would therefore come directly out of his/her pocket.

Do you have a written tenancy agreement? If so take it to the CAB. If not then your landlord is breaking the law and you may have no security of tenure whatever.
posted by epo at 2:56 AM on August 26, 2014

If you have no security deposit, I suppose you need to ask yourself two questions. How long are you going to be staying there and do you feel like being a good person? I agree with vapidave. In my experience, tile only falls off the shower wall if the wall itself is falling apart. Is the tile stuck to drywall? If so, ugh, omg, you are probably going to have to rip all that out and hope to god the wood behind it is solid. So, new greenboard or cement board on top of tiling IF the wood behind is solid. If not, ugh......

Anyway, this repair could be SUPER COSTLY and totally not your fault. If this were me, I would tell the landlord that this repair is WAY beyond your cost limit and skill level. These sort of things are the type of things renters shouldn't have to deal with. If you don't care about being shitty, then just glue them back in place as best you can and put it out of your mind. Which is exactly what the people who owned my place before me did and I ended up going through exactly what you are thinking of doing, so, I know what I am talking about when I say this project SUCKS.

Short version: You bet your ass this is your landlord's problem. Even if you had pried the tiles off yourself with a crowbar it's your landlord's problem.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:57 AM on August 26, 2014

Is the tile stuck to drywall? If so, ugh, omg, you are probably going to have to rip all that out and hope to god the wood behind it is solid.

Asker is in the UK so more probable the wall behind the plaster/plasterboard is brick (but you never know).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:01 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the reason most people rent is so they don't have to bother with things like this. You pay a premium to live there so that things like repairs and renovating are someone else's problem, otherwise you might as well own. If you get stuck fixing, remodelling and paying off someone else's mortgage, where is the benefit for you? Call the owner. That's what you pay him for.
posted by Jubey at 3:04 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't have a security deposit and it's understood that my landlord will fix most problems. It's his fucking building, I just live here. I can't take a re-tiled bathroom with me when I move out and neither can you. If the landlord didn't want the responsibility of maintaining his own property, maybe he shouldn't be in the rental business.
posted by phunniemee at 4:31 AM on August 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

I don't know much about UK renter's law, but in every US jurisdiction that I've lived in, this is exactly the sort of thing that the landlord is required to repair by law no matter what the lease says. It falls under the rules about keeping any rented living spaces in livable condition.
posted by firechicago at 4:46 AM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Having actually done a few minutes research in devnull's link, I come across this link.

I would draw your attention to the following paragraph:

Your landlord can't include an express term in your tenancy agreement that would reduce their legal obligations or pass on any of their responsibilities to you. For example, a term that said you were responsible for repairs to the roof wouldn't have any force in law because roof repairs are your landlord’s responsibility.
posted by firechicago at 4:52 AM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

We don't have a security deposit, as it is understood that we will fix most problems

I rented for decades in the UK. I have never heard of this. All issues are to be fixed by the landlord, but I have had verbal (only) agreements that I would fix minor stuff, but that was purely because it was more hassle for me to be in when the workman arrived to fix tiny things than just doing it myself - changing hard to reach lightbulbs, leaky taps, kitchen cabinet hinges broken, that sort of thing. But I was told a number of times that I was unusually proactive in that regard.

If you have a standard rental agreement, it is absolutely not your problem to fix issues with the house in UK rental environments.
posted by Brockles at 5:30 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alert him to the problem and ask him if he wants to take care of it or does he want you to fix it and deduct the repair fees out of the next month's rent. He is legally responsible for all upkeep repairs. Without a deposit, you should fix anything that you break yourself.
posted by myselfasme at 8:51 AM on August 26, 2014

Seconding Brockles. I too rented in London for 9 years before buying a flat and I've never heard of this either. If I was being overly cynical, I'd suggest you were being taken for a ride when it comes to paying for repairs.

The security deposit isn't for wear and tear expenditure, it's to cover damage, outstanding bills and cleaning when you leave the place (that falls beyond the standard wear and tear). It also needs to go into a Government backed tenancy deposit protection scheme.

If you were throwing things around and smashed some tiles then you would be, rightly, expected to pay for the repair - but, as you described it, this is standard wear and tear and should be picked up by the landlord.

Technically you can get the landlord to pay for most things, although often there is a "gentlemen's agreement" that tiny things (such as lightbulbs) are done by the renter because it's often quicker, cheaper and easier for them to do it.
posted by mr_silver at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

It might be nice for you to be able to prove that you didn't cause the water damage (if there is some that's causing the tiles to fall). I'm not saying it would be your responsibility if you did cause such damage (whether through your shower repair or otherwise), just that the landlord might try to argue in this direction. I guess I'm just saying, get this part straight if you can before talking with the landlord.
posted by amtho at 9:31 AM on August 26, 2014

I agree with the others, that you should not be responsible for the tile repair. It has the potential to be a big job, expensive, and not for the inexperienced. If your agreement with your landlord is that you will fix most minor items, this is clearly outside of that agreement.

The key argument is that these loose tiles are an indication that there is something going on inside the wall. Say, for the sake of argument, that you get some glue and glue these tiles right back on. Then you get some grout in a tube and squeeze it in between the tiles. Smooth it over and the fix is done. As you may guess, the job is a poor one, and will come undone fairly soon. Ask your landlord if this is the route he wants you to take.

The correct fix involves determining if the substance behind the tiles is breaking down. If so, it must be replaced (all of it). The wood behind that should be examined for rot, with the assumption that the water that may leak into the wall will quietly work on the structure of the house until it is stopped. A new, tight, shower area, done well, will serve for years. It will not be quick, neat, or cheap.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:47 AM on August 26, 2014

I've rented (as both lessor and lessee at various times), where the landlord asked not to be called about every minor problem, and tenant agreed to handle small repairs. It is an annoyance to be called frequently about routine, small matters by overly picky, helpless tenants -- at the same time, it's a problem when the landlord isn't called quickly to fix serious issues like leaking roofs or plumbing. This falling bathroom wall tile problem would not have been included in that sensible arrangement, where the tenant handles it.
posted by lathrop at 9:58 AM on August 26, 2014

FWIW, your landlord will probably want to take care of this, even if he has to pay for it, as retiliing is surprisingly inexpensive and fixing water damage (which often will go straight down through multiple units) can be F-ing astronomical.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:27 PM on August 26, 2014

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