Who is responsible for repairs due to a clogged toliet?

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Who is responsible for repairs due to a clogged toliet?

Our lease states lessee is responsible for minor repairs caused by lessee. She clogged the toilet and did not contact me for 2 days. Am I required to go and unclog it even though we never had this issue with our past tenants? Also, is she responsiblefor the the repair bill if an outside company is necessary to fix the problem? She states there is a mildew odor now (the bathroom has carpet). Since the mildew was caused by her neglect, who is responsible to fix the problem?

Asked on August 14, 2011 New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There is no simple answer, unfortunately, because the issue is what exactly is a "minor repair"--and also what is "caused by lessee," and, in that vein, is it "caused by lessee" if the problem is, for example, that the plumbing is old, constricted, inefficient, etc.  and that's why it clogged.

Certainly, one can easily posit circumstances under which the lessee would be responsible in this case--she flushed something inappropriate (e.g. a diaper); she used an entirely excessive amount of toilet paper; when there was evidentally a small clog or back up, instead of plunging it or using Draino or whatever, she flushed more stuff down on top of it. There are also circumstances where it would not be her fault--the problem is there is a kink, constriction, or blockage in the pipe, which causes matter to get caught.

At the end of the day, you can try to hold her accountable for the cost; if she disagrees and tries to fight, you could end up in litigation; you need to consider the facts, how much money is at stake, and whether she looks like she'll fight it, and how strongly. The agreement terms you describe, unfortunately, leave room for interpretation, so it's not that you would certainly be right.


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