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It Is Now My Duty to Completely Drain You - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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February 6th, 2010


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08:58 am - It Is Now My Duty to Completely Drain You
If I've got a problem, yo, you'll solve it?

Last month, my bathtub started draining very slowly. I kept wondering whether I was imagining the fact that I was standing in a couple inches of water at the end of my showers. Maybe the problem would get better on its own. But it didn't. So I e-mailed my kooky old French landlord. He said he'd have his plumber look at it, but if the drain was clogged too badly, he'd call Roto-Rooter, and the cost would fall to me since it was the tenant's responsibility to keep the drain clean.

Wait, what? I thought the whole point of renting was so you didn't have to pay for shit like that.

The next morning, by freaky coincidence or psychological conditioning, the problem was gone! I wasn't standing in water at the end of my shower! What was going on? That was so bizarre.

The plumber still took a look at it, and he said it was draining very slowly. When I came home...the problem was actually worse than it was originally. Now it barely drained at all. He tried one more time to unclog the drain himself but was unsuccessful.

So my landlord was going to call Roto-Rooter, and I would have to pay for it. I still didn't understand why. Everyone I talked to agreed that it was the landlord's job to fix clogged drains. While I didn't have a hair catch, the drain cover caught quite a bit of hair all on its own, so I never saw a need for one. Or...knew they existed.

I sent my landlord links to the California Department of Consumer Affairs website, where it stated that it was the landlord's responsibility to to provide me with plumbing facilities in good working order, including a working tub, or else my apartment was legally uninhabitable. Furthermore, plumbing blockages were considered serious enough to withhold rent if he didn't fix them. The only section that pointed the finger at me said it was the tenant's responsibility not to allow any plumbing fixture to become filthy. Which I would understand if I had clogged the drain by doing something really ridiculous, but this was just normal use for three years (plus whatever the previous tenant had sent down there). Who knew what had been going on in there?

My landlord responded, "If we have anything defective in the plumbing, that is wear and tear, and that is our cost. We replace/repair. If you clog your tub drain or your toilet syphon, or your kitchen sink drain, it is 'cleaning' that is needed, and that is your cost. Frankly, it looks like it is your cost in this case. However, one should not judge until the problem is solved. If there is a doubt, let us see." I asked him if his plumber had used a drain snake because, if not, maybe I could just go get one and try to snake the drain myself. He said that the types of snakes civilians could get were short and really only good for toilets and sinks, whereas Roto-Rooter had the hardcore devices that justified their exorbitant rates.

When I came home, I found a Roto-Rooter receipt on my desk. They had found the clog four feet in. They had come for forty-five minutes. And they had charged $186.75, after a ten-dollar coupon from their website. There was no note about whether or when I was supposed to pay my landlord, but he wouldn't have left the receipt for me otherwise.

So I ask you, Internet: who should incur the cost in this case? And if it's not me, what should I do? I really don't want to get into a big fight over it—while it's a lot of money, it's not a LOT of money—because I have enough things stressing me out right now, and money can solve this problem. Is he misunderstanding the rules and regulations? Am I? Aren't clogged drains a part of regular maintenance and upkeep? I don't want to pay almost two hundred dollars for this shit. That's a lot of comics.
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(42 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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[User Picture]
From:scripted22
Date:February 6th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
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I think you should just call the Department of Consumer Affairs and ask their opinion. It's hard to tell by their website whether this falls under a repair needed to keep the apartment habitable or whether it is considered a "less serious repair" covered under the lease.

You should check your lease anyway (if you haven't already) just to see if anything is specified in it. For example, my brother plows the snow at his apartment building but there is something in (or not in) the lease that makes it ultimately the tenant's responsibility in case he ever misses a snowstorm. He never has, but he doesn't want to be responsible for a plowing bill if the tenants called someone instead of waiting for him. Of course, that's a different situation from plumbing.

If you try everything and cannot get the landlord to pay the whole bill, I would at least try to get him to split the cost. You could ask him to split it in good faith since it isn't clear who is ultimately responsible, and because he called Roto-Rooter and he had the problem resolved in the most expensive manner possible.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 6th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
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My lease says, "Resident shall keep...fixtures which are rented for Resident's exclusive use in good order and condition. Resident shall pay Dwelling Provider for costs to repair, replace or rebuild any portion of the premises damaged by the Resident, Resident's guest or invites." And, huh, it also says I'm required to have renter's insurance with a minimum liability of $300,000, and I was supposed to show him proof of insurance within 30 days of moving in. He never mentioned that before! I...will not bring that up. I have it now, but not for that much.

I will see if he can split the cost. As for calling Roto-Rooter, I did agree with that plan because I didn't know of any other option at the time, so that argument may not work. I'm also going to ask if he can just take it out of my security deposit, since that's money I never really expected to get back anyway and it's what that money is supposed to be for. I always forget I have it out there.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 6th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
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I'm super non-confrontational so I would probably just pay it. The part that bothers me is that if you were going to pay for the repair you should chose the company. It the landlord ordered the repair he should pay for it. Asking to split it and be over it sounds like a good idea. Putting it behind you and enjoying the fast draining tub will be best. (not helpful) Laura (as anon because LJ doesn't want to know who I am for some reason)
[User Picture]
From:smrou
Date:February 6th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
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I still am so confused about why his plumber couldn't fix it. What the hell did he actually do if not snake the drain? That's the obvious thing to try if something isn't draining and anyone who calls themself a plumber should have no trouble doing that. My dad owns a snake that can go four feet and he's certainly not a professional plumber. I just found a fifty foot snake on homedepot.com for twenty-seven dollars. So I think your landlord totally bullshitted you.

Anyway, I don't know if it's worth fighting about, but drains clog up over time. I don't think it's an issue of you keeping it clean. I think it should be on the landlord's head to pay in this case, but I'm certainly no expert.
[User Picture]
From:smrou
Date:February 6th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC)
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Also, I agree that if you were going to have to pay for the service then you should have been the one to order it. Because you probably would have been smart and shopped around to find the cheapest people. Whether or not it's your responsibility to get the clog fixed I think your landlord has totally screwed you here. He told you not to try to snake it on your own (which you totally could have done for WAY less than two hundred dollars) and didn't even let you find the least expensive professionals to do it.
[User Picture]
From:lodessa
Date:February 6th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
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This is nonsense. As someone with a lot of hair, I do routinely need my tub drain to be unclogged and NOWHERE I have ever lived (and save 4 years in high school I have always been in rented space) has ever charged me for that. It is totally his responsibility and he is just being a dick. Not to mention that the simplest solution was to pour chemicals down there anyway, no need to go digging around.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 6th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
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He said that chemicals would just eat away at the pipes and not actually fix anything, so he didn't know why they kept selling that stuff. I considered buying some and using it initially, but I expected that he would take care of it, so I didn't bother. In hindsight, as soon as he said that it would be my responsibility to pay, I should have told him not to touch anything and let me try to fix it myself, however I wanted. Apparently he would have charged me for his own plumber if he had been able to do anything, when I had assumed that work would have been covered.

This is so irritating. I've had various other plumbing issues that he's taken care of himself with no drama and no charge, so why would I assume this would be any different?
[User Picture]
From:rowanceleste
Date:February 6th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
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I've never rented as I went from living with my bro to buying my place, but I'd say talk to him about going 50/50 as I don't think a tenant should be responsible for a clog that's 4 feet down the drain. It's not like you were washing your Newfoundland in the tub or something. Hopefully he's willing to split it, because even if he feels he's right, it's a grey area and you are a good tenant, so I'd think even for the sake of tenant/landlord relations, it would behoove him to do.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 6th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I'm hoping that since he said that one should not judge until the problem is solved, I can shed doubt and offer a split as a compromise. It was just a ball of hair. If it was something anomalous, then okay maybe it was my fault for being an idiot. But it was just taking a few hundred showers like a normal person.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:stephl
Date:February 6th, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I'm bitchy about landlords screwing over their tenants. You say you've lived there for 3 years and this was the first time that the drain was blocked? Then clearly you haven't been engaging in deliberate malicious drain-blocking. Humans have hair. If your landlord doesn't want that potential problem, he's going to have to find a lot of Lex Luthors to rent to.

If I were in your place, I'd be citing California landlord-tenant law and telling him to cough up the dough. But I also understand your desire to have the problem go away, and throwing money at it can make it go away.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 6th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
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If I were in your place, I'd be citing California landlord-tenant law
How is that different from what I already cited him?
[User Picture]
From:electricmonk
Date:February 6th, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
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Hey, I just unclogged my bathroom sink today. It was satisfying. But I don't think the junk was 4 feet down. My neighbor in Portland had a big ol' drain snake, and it was awesome. I think he just got it at the hardware store. I'm thinking about getting one now. It's so much easier just to deal with it yourself.

Anyway, is there a local tenants rights organization you can consult? Like one of these guys maybe? They might be able to advise you both on what the actual rules are and on how best to proceed. All they do is deal with landlord-tenant stuff.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 6th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I found that page, but all those organizations seem like they're for far more hardcore issues than this.
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From:behindpyramids
Date:February 6th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
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Wouldn't the roto-rooter people have an idea? I wonder if the landlord is thinking you may sweat freaking kumquats or something and they all got stuck down there, but you know you're just doing normal wear and tear....perhaps the person who cleaned it out can back you up and tell the landlord: "um, no sweat kumquats, just a routine clean up that would be impossible for any tenant to clean."

[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 7th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
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That's a good idea! I gave them a call, and the guy who was here yesterday is going to call me back.
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From:enshanam
Date:February 6th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
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I've always bought my own Drano, because I thought that my clogs were my problem, just like burned-out bulbs. The only time I had a bad situation, though, the landlord paid because stuff in the drainage had actually broken.
[User Picture]
From:finniscs
Date:February 6th, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
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I would say it's your landlord's problem. If worse came to worse I would offer to pay half but no more.
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From:dcjensen
Date:February 6th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
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Your landlords first plumber should have at least tried a normal length snake. 4 ft down is easy peasy fix and should have been done straightaway.

Calling Roto rooter without trying basic plumbing techniques is just plain lazy on the part of the landlord and the plumber. Sure they are quick to spend the money on Roto Rooter, they are going to charge YOU for it.

Calling Roto Rooter for such a simple snaking job is like calling AAA when you are out of gas six blocks from a gas station.

Call the tenant rights groups, even if it's too small for them, they may be able to steer you to the right people.
From:rssrss
Date:February 7th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
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"he part that bothers me is that if you were going to pay for the repair you should chose the company. "

Yup. And I am also completely non-confrontational, so I'd probably just pay it, but then I'd be afraid of setting a precedent. And $300,00? Wow.

OT: PC, I sent you an email under a different name, and I think you might not have seen it because I put a stupid subject line on it so it might have gotten marked as spam. Could you let me know if you got it, please? If not, I'll resend it if that's ok with you. Thanks.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 7th, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
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Oh! Oh my God, did I never reply to that? I saw it and thought I'd be no help at all, but I guess I didn't actually reply?

I'd probably just pay it, but then I'd be afraid of setting a precedent.
Yeah, it's the principle of the thing, too!
[User Picture]
From:miniglik
Date:February 7th, 2010 12:44 am (UTC)
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I have no good advice. If you have the money and have no other problems with the landlord than I'd probably just pay it. Maybe?


However, I remember when you got that apartment and it can't be that long ago! Wth three years?!?
[User Picture]
From:adnirem
Date:February 7th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)
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Last year, I paid RotoRooter ninety bucks for twenty minutes of snaking my bathtub drain. I didn't even try to get my landlord to pay for it because I knew he would want to try to fix it himself and possibly eff up my plumbing even worse. The problem with most shower drains is that there is a shelf under there that goes horizontal after the vertical drop and it's hard for most residential snakes to get into that nook unless you have access to the backside of the drain through a panel. Even then, there are a lot of different things back there and it can be weird and annoying to find the right one.

Drano is bad. I use baking soda and vinegar on all my drains once a month.
From:dotificus
Date:February 7th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
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UGH.

I agree with those who say you should resist paying this. Most landlords take care of this kind of thing without charging the tenant.


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