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Should a Landlord or Tenant be Responsible for Blocked Drains?

Say you’ve recently decided to rent out your property and everything seems to be in working order. One day, however, your tenant emails to say the drain is blocked and causing issues. The first thing that comes to mind would be to head to the property to fix it or get a contractor to fix the problem. However, are blocked drains really the landlord’s responsibility?

Figuring out who’s responsible for a blocked drain can be a real struggle, especially if the tenancy agreement doesn’t explicitly state these kinds of issues and they weren’t agreed upon beforehand. Here we’ll provide you a clearer picture of when it’s the tenant’s or the landlord’s responsibility, and when you should be calling a professional plumber to rectify the issue.

When are blocked drains a landlord’s responsibility?

As a landlord, you are obligated to ensure that the rental property is fit for habitation. This doesn’t just refer to the overall cleanliness of the space, it also refers to the plumbing and drainage system. Once the tenant moves in, the landlord still needs to be in the picture, and be responsible for ensuring that the premises are in a state of ‘reasonable’ repair – once again, this refers to all plumbing systems and fixtures situated on the property.

Typically, you should list these issues and situations on the initial tenancy agreement. If there are particular repairs listed there that fall under the landlord’s responsibility, it’s your duty to pay for those. Even if it’s not listed, it’s most likely that these urgent repairs will still fall under the landlord’s care. Some examples of urgent issues would include things like the bursting of pipes, flooding, and serious leakages.

If such an issue were to occur, your tenants should have your contact details and/or the property manager’s details and call straight away. Flooding for one can ruin furniture, décor, and supplies – especially if not remedied quickly. Once you’ve received the call you should then contact an expert that’ll be able to adequately handle a plumbing emergency.

When are blocked drains a tenant’s responsibility?

The tenant also has responsibilities, including making sure the property is in good condition before signing the tenancy agreement and moving in. While a landlord may be responsible for any significant maintenance that’s required on the property, the tenant is obligated to take care of any minor household updates.

If tenants cause any damage to the property, it’s their responsibility to pay for the damages. In the case of a blocked drain, it’d be the tenant’s obligation to pay for the repairs if they were intentionally shoving large pieces of food down the waste disposal – even if they didn’t know it was going to eventually cause a clog.

When should the landlord pay?

As mentioned earlier, it’s highly dependent on the contract. However, a landlord would automatically be held responsible if the issue was caused by negligence. An example would be not properly inspecting the space or checking if there were any plumbing issues before renting it out.

For the landlord to pay for the fix, it must also be proven that the tenant is not responsible for the damage, and it was the landlord’s negligence that caused the blocked drain.

Summing up

While blocked drains generally aren’t difficult to rectify, it could easily escalate into a bigger issue. If the tenant chooses to purchase parts and fix the issue themselves, they must keep open communication with the landlord and let them know first.  Similarly, as a landlord, keeping the channels of communication open will help with establishing a relationship of trust.

In an ideal situation, you’d want to be able to communicate with your tenants and visa-versa openly. The last thing you’d want is for any issue to escalate into a conflict or a dispute. If this were to happen, things could get messy, and you might need to involve an independent third party to help with mediating the issue.

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  1. We had a blocked drain and the blockage was grease buildup. Our landlord is making us pay for it. Is this our responsibility or his

    1. Grease should not be poured down any drain as it will clog the pipe eventually. The pipes will get cold along the way and harden the fat.

  2. My wife and I recently moved in to rental property two days ago and the drains are clogged. Backed up sewage is coming from the kitchen sink and pouring on to the kitchen floor. The landlord had made minimal effort to fix the issue. What should we do??

  3. Question was not answered.
    If grease / fat / foodstuffs is not poured down the drain, but is present in the drain due to offwash from cutlery and dishware due to normal washing cycles and still causes a blockage over time due to the buildup it causes due to the cooling of the pipework, is it still for the tenant to pay, even if the tenant takes care to run hot water regularly to minimise the occurence of buildup?