Plumbing Emergency: Who is responsible, renter or owner?

The obligation for plumbing repairs and upkeep is a frequent point of contention between proprietors and tenants. However, both parties have a part to play during a tenancy. And if it’s a plumbing emergency, it typically falls on the tenants to make a decision.


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The property owner is accountable for ensuring their property is in a safe state of repair and is suitable for tenants. Once an occupant relocates and signs a contract, the obligation for upkeep is shared.

The requirements around who will take duty for the problems that might arise throughout the occupancy term. Everyone’s rights should be laid out in the Residential Tenancy Agreement.

Throughout the lease term, the tenant’s duty is to take great care of the property and preserve functional aspects.

This includes being diligent in avoiding issues from arising. For instance, the tenant needs to keep the home tidy and not flush or clean things down drains pipes that could trigger obstructions.

How to manage a plumbing emergency

If an emergency occurs at the property, you should call the landlord to do something about it. If the tenant contacts the landlord to send a plumber, and the plumber then reports the problem was caused by occupant neglect (i.e. hair has actually blocked the drain in the shower), it would be the occupant’s duty to pay for the work.

What is classified as an emergency plumbing problem?

It can be difficult to understand what specifies a plumbing emergency. Or what can wait till the following day for attention. Often things can fail late during the night, and, as a renter, you require to make a quick choice about who to call and what to do.

According to the Residential Tenancies Act, emergency repair work can consist of:

  • A burst water service or serious water service leak
  • Broken or blocked toilet systems
  • A gas leak
  • A serious roofing leak
  • Major storm, fire or impact damage
  • Burst pipes
  • Flooding
  • Broken hot water heater

Your Residential Tenancy Arrangement need to include contact details in case of an emergency, including telephone number, agent numbers and numbers for authorized emergency plumbers.

Plumbing system maintenance versus plumbing repair work

Things can get made complex when it’s unclear whether a residential or commercial property problem falls under ‘upkeep’ or ‘repair.’.

Normally speaking, ‘maintenance’ describes fixing things on the property that are seen hold-up wear and tear and aren’t classed as immediate. Whereas ‘repairs’ generally describe something that’s broken or harmed and requires to be repaired promptly.

Landlords are normally responsible for preserving and paying for the home’s structural aspects– things like the roof, foundations and walls, but not decorative functions, such as carpeting.

Overall, it’s the occupant’s responsibility to keep the rental home clean and in working order throughout the lease. The property owner is responsible for ensuring the property is healthy and safe for a renter to reside in.

At the end of the day, if you’re renting a residential or commercial property and there’s a major plumbing problem that isn’t your fault, the responsibility lies entirely with the landlord.

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