Does Apartment Maintenance Unclog Toilets?

The answer can differ depending on your lease terms. It is also one of the most frustrating things for tenants and landlords.

There is no set answer to this query since it depends on your living situation. However, as a general rule of thumb, you need to unclog toilets caused by your negligence.

This may be anything from flushing tampons down the toilet, or a toy stuck in the bowl. However, the landlord must step in if the toilet overflows because of a tree root pressing on the waterline.

In any case, your lease has to mention who is responsible for unclogging clogged toilets and under what circumstances. 

When a Blocked Toilet is the Landlord’s Responsibility

Landlords are responsible for ensuring that their rental properties are habitable. Besides general cleanliness, drainage and other maintenance issues have to be considered. 

As soon as a tenant moves in, they must ensure all the plumbing and fixtures are in working condition. So they have to make repairs beforehand. 

All of these issues should be listed clearly in the tenancy agreement. Certain repairs that are the landlord’s responsibility should be paid for promptly. 

These include burst pipes, flooding, leakages, and clogged toilets, which can cause the first three issues. In this case, the landlord should immediately contact the tenant and property manager. 

Once both parties are notified of the issue, the landlord should call a professional plumber to fix the issue. 

When a Blocked Toilet is the Tenant’s Responsibility

If a tenant moves into a property that has been repaired already, future repairs are their responsibility. Landlords are usually responsible for large maintenance jobs.

But tenants are usually obligated to take on minor repairs and household issues. This can include toilets clogged because of their negligence. In this case, they have to pay for repairs.

If you throw toilet paper down the toilet after wiping and it doesn’t disintegrate, you will be asked to pay for unclogging. 

But determining responsibility can get complicated in certain circumstances.

What Happens If Two Or More Properties Share A Sewer Line?

If two properties share a sewer line, determining fault can get complicated. In most cases, the landlord is responsible for repairs if the pipes are old and damaged because of a lack of maintenance.

However, the tenants are responsible if they break the pipes because of negligence or specific activities. The landlord can charge the tenant in this case. 

What If The Toilet Is In A Condo?

If you live in a condo and your toilet is clogged, ask your local Homeowner Association if they are responsible for plumbing blockages past the property. If not, call property management and ask if they can repair it. 

Your landlord has to unclog the blockage if it happens within the condo walls. But, if you were responsible for the issue, you would have to pay the plumber. 

Make sure the toilet and plumbing are in working condition before you move in. Your landlord should take care of pending issues beforehand. 

So if a previous tenant clogged the toilet and moved out, the landlord has to make repairs, not the new tenant. 

Who Is Responsible For Clearing Overflowing Septic Tanks?

The septic tank is probably clogged if all of the toilets in your apartment or home are overflowing. In this case, you need to call a plumber specializing in these tanks as soon as possible. 

The tank can overflow if pumped years ago, or the drain field is compromised after heavy rain. You can also ruin these tanks by pouring oil, bleach, grease, and food down the drain.

Proving that a tenant was responsible for a clogged toilet can be tricky since it involves several variables. Landlords should educate their tenants about these tanks beforehand.

This issue is a recurring one and is also quite expensive to fix. Most landlords ensure the lease mentions that plumbing repairs are the tenant’s responsibility. 

This also includes details on what each professional is responsible for and how the system will be maintained. 

Avoid Accountability by Learning about Tenant/Landlord Laws 

Each state has different laws when it comes to landlord and tenant rights. Almost all state landlords must provide their tenants with clean and safe accommodation.

This includes ensuring the following are in place:

  • Water, heat, and electricity.
  • Weatherproofing or insulation.
  • Expense coverage for standard property maintenance. 

In keeping with these responsibilities, most tenants would think that a clogged toilet was the landlord’s responsibility. That is only the case if the clog is due to normal wear and tear.

For example, if the septic tank wasn’t pumped for years and caused sewage backup in your toilets, you shouldn’t have to pay for repairs. 

But there are exceptions to this rule. For example, tenants must keep the property clean and take care of repairs if, say, they broke a pipe or fixture by mistake.

If your child flushed his toy down the toilet, causing a clog, you are responsible for repairs. In this case, your negligence caused the issue, not the landlord’s. 

Check out your lease agreement before moving into your apartment. It should have information about the coverage you have throughout the lease. 

You need to follow those rules when you sign the contract. So if it says you have to cover expenses pertaining to a clogged toilet you caused, you have to pay the plumber.

If you are unsure who is responsible for this issue, ask your landlord directly. Be as specific as possible so they can give you a straight answer. 

If you are responsible, ask for the contact details of a reliable plumber they use for their property. The plumber will be familiar with the system and may also give you a discount. 

Circumstances under Which the Landlord Has To Pay the Plumber 

Urgent or essential repairs would be the landlord’s responsibility unless a tenant caused the damage. Here are some situations in which the former has to pay for plumbing repairs:

  • If the clog or damage was due to a lack of maintenance after the lease was signed.
  • If a natural disaster or nearby construction caused the issue.
  • If the plumbing issue was due to a breakdown in the plumbing system. In this case, the landlord is responsible for ensuring the apartment is habitable. 
  • If the toilet clogged because of an undisclosed or pre-existing issue and the tenant discovered it after signing the lease. 

How to Fix a Clogged Toilet If You Are Responsible For Repairs 

If you clog the toilet mistakenly or otherwise, you are responsible for unclogging it. Here are some ways you can do this without damaging it:

Use a Plunger 

This is the most common way of unclogging a toilet. The simple plunger is usually adequate for most clogs if you know how to use it properly.

If used correctly, the suction cup should generate enough force to shove the item clogging the pipes deeper and out. Opt for heavy-duty plungers that can cover the whole hole. 

Place the rubber end into the toilet bowl covering the hole. Seal it by pressing down to remove air. Just give it a few quick pumps to push air and water into the clog to dislodge it.

Make sure you turn off the flush using the valve behind the bowl. It will prevent overflow. 

Use a Toilet Snake Cleaner 

If the plunger doesn’t work, the clog is more significant than you thought, or your kids threw more items in there than they said. Here is what you should do. 

First, turn on the tap in your bathroom sink. Listen for distress sounds from the pipes. If you hear something, you have a larger clog than anticipated.

Use a toilet snake to clear the clog. The flexible instrument can get into the curves of your toilet’s plumbing and push the obstruction out gently.

Use Chemicals  

CAUTION – use this method only if the clog is too big for the first two methods to work! Chemical drain cleaners have noxious fumes and are incredibly toxic.

The corrosive liquid can disintegrate organic matter and items stuck in the plumbing. But these chemicals cause irreparable damage to the environment and your toilet.

Use this solution as a last resort and inform your landlord before you do it. He may have a different and safer solution. Otherwise, you may have to cover the damages. 

Before using the drain opener, read the instructions from top to bottom. The substance can do irreparable damage to your skin, and even a single whiff can damage the lungs.

Wear a mask and thick gloves to prevent health issues that your landlord will not take responsibility for later. 

Bonus Tips!

You can make your situation worse if you panic. Here are some essential things you should consider when your toilet clogs and you are trying to fix it:

  • Don’t touch that flush! Your bathroom will flood fast with sewage water and waste, and the clog will remain.
  • Wear protective gear such as gloves and goggles, especially if using a chemical agent.
  • Once the toilet is unclogged, do the smart thing and don’t flush anything but organic waste down the toilet. Even flushable wipes can cause clogs. 

Be a Responsible and Informed Tenant!

Your lease is a binding legal contract. If it says tenants are responsible for repairs during their tenancy, a clogged toilet will be your responsibility. 

However, the landlord should step in if the plumbing is old and deteriorating or if the septic tank hasn’t been maintained in years.

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