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  1. #1
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    Jan 2013
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    Exclamation Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Pennsylvania.
    Hello,

    Let me give you a little background info before starting so you can get a clearer picture of the issues. I have been living in my apartment, which is a home converted into 3 apts with me on the 3rd floor, for 5 yrs. Ever since moving in, I have had numerous plumbing issues through out the apt. The first 2 yrs I had a landlord who really cared and came out asap with 2 fulltime maint. techs, to fix issues , no questions asked. As far as the plumbing issues though, they have never had a pro plumber come in to evaluate the on going issues with the toilet, tub, sink and kitchen sink and dishwasher back up and flooding. They just temporarily would fix the problem and for yrs they have been arising again and again. Fast forward to the last 2 yrs of my current landlord, who isnt the same owner. Building was sold to this guy. He is another story. He's basically a slum lord. He collects rent and mine is always on time but goes as far as calling on the day its owed or showing up at my apartment that day, even though its always already been mailed. As far as repairing things goes thats another story. First off he has no maintenance people that I know of. He calls random people he knows , who are not professionals to come fix issues. One of the guys sent even told me he never unclogged a tub before and dont know plumbing issues. He lets things go for yrs, as what he did with a huge hole in the ceiling of my downstairs neighbor, from a tub leak from my apartment. Or he'll wait until he feels like doing it, if at all.
    Anyway, theres some history. The issue on hand now is whats currently happening. This past Monday the 21st of Jan 2013, as usual there was a problem again with the toilet at 4am. It was flushed with nothing solid in there and the toilet just overflowed and flooded the bathroom and leading to the carpet in front of the bathroom, with about 2 inches of water on the floor. I tried first to use towels and a mop before calling anyone. But with that much water, I couldnt even begin to eliminate the problem. Also, the toilet water hadn't gone down at all and was steadily at the very top of the rim of the toilet, so I couldnt slosh through and try to plunge because it would further overflow onto floor again. So, since my landlord has no maintenance per se, he also doesnt have anything in the lease about emergency situations and repairs. The only thing in the lease thats stated that if repairs are needed, to call his number (doesnt specify times of day or days of week). So, immediately I called him at little time after 4am because I feared the flood of water may leak down into the downstairs apt causing further damage, and I would be held liable if I didnt try to do something. He didnt answer so I left him a message as to what happened. After calling him, I called a friend out of dead sleep of course, that works as a regional maint. supervisor and does plumbing, etc. He came immediately to assess the damage. I called him immediately after calling him due to the amount of water on the entire floor (whole bathroom) and some going into the hall carpet) and as I said before , was afraid of further damage to floor and ceiling leak of neighbors. Anyway, landlord still didnt call me back so my friend started working on the flooding first with a wet/dry indust. vacuum. After the bathroom floor was cleared up, he shut off the water valve on the toilet , which I had no idea about that valve or anything. He started by sucking water out of the toilet with the vacuum due to it being to the top of rim and couldnt plunge with it that high without overflow. Once the water was down enough, he tried his plunger he uses from work. He plunged for so long it was unreal and still it would not budge. It needed to be snaked. At this point he had been there about a half hour. He noticed he forgot to bring his snake, thinking it was gonna be a normal clog so he had to go to walmart and buy a snake. That took some time for him to come back of course. At 5am, he began snaking the toilet. That went on for a really long time. The first time he tried flushing after snaking, the toilet over flowed all over the floor around the toilet again so he had to get the vacuum out again and get the water up. He continued snaking until it was clear. After all was said and done, he didnt get done until 6am! You can imagine how exhausted we were. Anyhow, he said Im gonna have to bill for this but that I shouldn't have to be responsible, knowing all the past problems and the emergency situation. At no time during this entire process did the landlord call back. In fact, he didnt call back until 10:48am the next morn. Surely if I wouldnt have gotten it fixed and had waited that long until he called and then waiting even longer until he would send someone out, the water would have spread into the whole hallway and gone down into apartment below and me and the kids would have no where to go to the bathroom because the water was so high we couldnt sit on it if we tried even if we didnt flush. I hope you can understand that part. Dont have a better way to put it.
    Anyway, he proceeds to say he's not paying the bill. I was sleeping when he called and was foggy and said to take it up with the friend who fixed it and went back to bed. I was exhausted from being up have the night/morning and didnt want to argue.
    I woke up to an email saying he thinks we should "part ways" because I "dog" up his plumbing all the time and expect him to pay for it and threatened some other actions which I will get to on another forum.
    So , now that you know the whole story, can anyone give me any laws or advice or anything that would prove he is responsible for this bill I have to pay? I already have been searching the entire net for things related but nothing matching my circumstances and nothing in the landlord/tenant handbook states anything about my situation. I consulted 2 attorneys that say I had to get permission before getting work done, but it was an emergency, he didnt answer and never called back until late in the morning and he has no number or instructions as to what to do in case of emergency. The lawyer said I had to give him ample time to fix it before doing anything BUT, again, he called 6 hours later and that wouldnt count the time he would need to get someone out to me if nothing was done. Can you imagine the damage that would have caused if I did nothing? And not being able to even try to use the toilet for me and my kids because of the water to the rim? What do I do? I have exhausted every effort and now other things are involved. Help please!
    P.S. As of last night at 10:30am, 2 days after this whole event, I have had a tub full of water that will not drain so it just goes to show there are bigger issues here, even though he blamed me for the toilet and his reason for not paying.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    1. Your choice once the toilet overflowed was to clean up the water on the floor.

    2. Instead, you chose to contact someone to address the issue of the clog.

    3. The toilet was no longer overflowing after the initial problem. Thus, there was no need to call someone at 4 am to unclog the toilet. Since you chose to do this, you get to pay for it. Two attorneys have told you this.

    4. If you do not have a lease (i.e., you are a month to month tenant) you are free to provide your landlord with the appropriate written notice to terminate your tenancy and find another place to live that, hopefully, does not have these plumbing issues.

    Gail

  3. #3
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    Jan 2013
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    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    Yes, my choice was to get someone to removing the flooding from the floor bc if I didn't it would go downstairs and do further damage. Was I supposed to do something else? Not sure why that was a bad choice? I could not get that much water out with out having a machine to suck it all up so I had to call someone before further damage. Yes, the toilet was no longer overflowing but water was to rim. Now I can understand using a toilet that doesnt flush if u have to go to the bathroom, until it gets fixed, but, where were we supposed to go to the bathroom in the meantime, in the 6 hours before he called me back? We would literally sit in the water itself and overflow it again. Should I have not unclogged it? Surely me and my kids would have to use the bathroom.
    As far as charging goes, as I stated, because of the amount of flooding and damage to be done, I had to call someone even if it was 4am, and because it was an after hours call, even if I didnt unclog the toilet, I was still charged for that.
    What I dont understand here, I guess, is what should I have done with the flooding that was slowing overflowing into my hall carpet also and will eventually go downstairs?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    "What I dont understand here, I guess, is what should I have done with the flooding that was slowing overflowing into my hall carpet also and will eventually go downstairs? "

    Take towels, blankets, etc. and dry the area to prevent damage from the overflow.

    Gail

  5. #5
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    4

    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    Gail, first thanks for your help. I did try, I used every towel in my closet and have no other blankets other than whats on my bed. The water was up to the side of the tub, there was no way to get it all up so that it wouldnt leak. I was trying to save the issue of further damage once I figured out I couldnt get it all up. If I had just left it there I would have been charged by the landlord when it leaked downstairs.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    As gail indicates, you have expressed that the toilet stopped overflowing, even if it was full. That water level would likely have dropped slowly over time, but even if not once the overflow stopped the emergency was over.

    A plumber would have showed up with a full truck of supplies, including at least one snake, and would likely have had the problem cleared inside of fifteen minutes. Also, even if the toilet was continuing to overflow, an actual plumber would likely have advised you to find the shut-off valve and turn off the water to the toilet. When a tenant's friend (even one familiar with building maintenance) takes two hours to clear a toilet blockage and wants to bill by the hour, it's not really a surprise that the landlord says "No deal."

    When a toilet is plugged and cannot be plunged it's almost always because somebody put something inappropriate down the toilet (although sometimes oridinary... material can create a significant plug). A plugged sink or toilet drain is almost always going to be a problem with hair and soap plugging up the drain. A plugged toilet is almost always going to be a problem with something that was flushed down the toilet. If the toilet works when the bathtub drain does not, and vice versa, you have a different problem in each drain.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    You are at least in your mid 20's yet you do not know how to shut off a water valve!!! I would evict you. You are too big of a risk to have in an apartment.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    As gail indicates, you have expressed that the toilet stopped overflowing, even if it was full. That water level would likely have dropped slowly over time, but even if not once the overflow stopped the emergency was over.

    A plumber would have showed up with a full truck of supplies, including at least one snake, and would likely have had the problem cleared inside of fifteen minutes. Also, even if the toilet was continuing to overflow, an actual plumber would likely have advised you to find the shut-off valve and turn off the water to the toilet. When a tenant's friend (even one familiar with building maintenance) takes two hours to clear a toilet blockage and wants to bill by the hour, it's not really a surprise that the landlord says "No deal."

    When a toilet is plugged and cannot be plunged it's almost always because somebody put something inappropriate down the toilet (although sometimes oridinary... material can create a significant plug). A plugged sink or toilet drain is almost always going to be a problem with hair and soap plugging up the drain. A plugged toilet is almost always going to be a problem with something that was flushed down the toilet. If the toilet works when the bathtub drain does not, and vice versa, you have a different problem in each drain.
    Mr. Knowitll,

    I never said he was a pro plumber if you re-read it I said he does plumbing as a maint. super. and he didnt charge by the hour either, it was one flat fee of around $150 I believe. Thats not much to ask for considering what time of the morning it was. No foreign object are ever put down my toilet so not sure what that could be? I dont even put tampons down anymore since he always says its my fault altho I just looked through my records in my emails that this has happened to plumbing around the house multiple times and sometimes all at once? Like you said there might be different problems in each drain but none have been fixed permanently. I dont know. The reason I didnt have a pro plumber come out was to save the expense. That would have been alot more than what my friend was charging. So it really doesnt matter how long it took because he didnt charge by the hour. Basically all he charged for was the after hours deal. I know what this man is about anyway. He also retaliated twice once when he left my tub full of sewage for almost 4 days and I legally deducted less than $50 from rent as per fair housing and again this time after asking he pay the bill. I even emailed him and said if im wrong then thats fine. The retaliation involved me paying him money and not for repairs either. For a separate issue.
    And thank you also for your reply.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    I won't even address the damage you can cause by flushing tampons. As it was a repeat problem, it was very likely one of your tampons that was wedged in the toilets S trap. The reason your tub is now clogged is likely that your tampon collection has moved beyond the point where the lines merge. All other materials would have degraded and passed.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Emergency Repair That Landlord Refuses to Pay for

    Quote Quoting dawnseve
    View Post
    I never said he was a pro plumber if you re-read it I said he does plumbing as a maint. super. and he didnt charge by the hour either, it was one flat fee of around $150 I believe.
    I know you told us that he wasn't a plumber. I know you told us he is some sort of "maint. super". I know also that he came unequipped to address the problem and took two hours to clear a line that a plumber would likely have had cleared inside of fifteen minutes. As I have told you, had you called a plumber instead of your buddy you would likely have been instructed as to how to shut off the water to prevent any further problems until the morning. Once the water stopped running, it wasn't an emergency.
    Quote Quoting dawnseve
    Thats not much to ask for considering what time of the morning it was.
    It's more than you're willing to pay.
    Quote Quoting dawnseve
    No foreign object are ever put down my toilet so not sure what that could be?
    You have children. More foreign objects go down your toilet than you realize. The most common cause of serious blockages, though, are improperly flushed paper goods (e.g., napkins, paper towels, baby wipes), repeated flushing of cotton balls (which don't dissolve and can get caught in the pipes) and flushing feminine hygiene products. Some people even try to flush diapers. Sometimes it's because a user tries to flush a ridiculous amount of toilet paper.
    Quote Quoting dawnseve
    I dont even put tampons down anymore since he always says its my fault
    If you were flushing tampons, it is all your fault. When you flush tampons, your landlord would be justified in charging you for the cost of the plumbers it takes to clear them out of the plumbing.
    Quote Quoting dawnseve
    altho I just looked through my records in my emails that this has happened to plumbing around the house multiple times and sometimes all at once?
    If you were flushing tampons, that could be "all you" as well, depending upon where in the pipes they get caught. The blockage you're describing, incidentally, is very consistent with a flushed tampon.
    Quote Quoting dawnseve
    He also retaliated twice once when he left my tub full of sewage for almost 4 days and I legally deducted less than $50 from rent as per fair housing and again this time after asking he pay the bill.
    What is the basis for your belief that you can deduct $50 from your rent based upon a claim of "fair housing"? You're on the third floor so, realistically speaking, the only way your bathtub would be full of sewage is if you're using it as a latrine. What actually happened?
    Quote Quoting dawnseve
    The retaliation involved me paying him money and not for repairs either. For a separate issue.
    Got facts?

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