February 6th, 2010

Ew! Gross!

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.