Need your opinion in resolving a landlord/tenant dispute

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  1. Hi ladies, I need your opinion in the following scenario:

    Billy is renting out a master bedroom in John's house. The room has an attached bathroom and Billy is the only one who uses it. The house is from the 70's and does not have upgraded appliances. The toilet has a stamp on it that says it is from 1981.

    Billy has never noticed anything wrong with the toilet. One day, right before Billy goes out he uses the toilet and flushes. Then he leaves the house. No one else is home. Two hours later, John gets a call from the neighbors because there is water overflowing from inside the house and leaking out the balcony. John notifies Billy and Billy goes home to find his room soaking wet. He discovered that there is something wrong with the toilet. Inside the tank, there is a chain attached to a plug so that when the tank is filled with water after a flush, the plug closes and the water stops filling. However, the chain somehow got detached from the plug so the water continued to fill the tank, overflowing the toilet and causing a flood in the room. Billy simply reattached the chain to the plug and now the toilet is working properly again. However, there is now damage to the carpet as well as the downstairs ceiling below Billy's room.

    John is trying to decide whether he should take the repair costs out of Billy's deposit. If Billy had been more conscientious and/or didn't leave the house immediately after the flush, he would've noticed the toilet overflowing and stopped it before the damage was done. There were no problems with the toilet before Billy moved in. Billy is the only one who uses that toilet and he probably misused the toilet, causing the chain to break off. Billy is the one living in that room so he should be responsible for the damages that occur inside the room.

    Billy feels it's not his fault that the toilet is old and has a chain that can detach on its own and no mechanism to stop it from overflowing. The owner failed to maintain the house properly and that was what resulted in the flood. Even though it was his private toilet, he has never misused it. He didn't know there was something wrong with it and flushed it like it's any other toilet. He has never looked inside the tank. If there was someone else living in that room, the same thing would have happened eventually after X number of flushes. The fact that he had left the house immediately after that fateful flush was due to bad luck, not neglect.

    As a neutral third party, who do you think is responsible for the repair costs? Thanks in advance for any help.
  2. Nah, I'm not buying that one. Does John sit there every time he flushes to make sure it quits? If he does, that implies he is anticipating a problem.

    Household items can fail at any time without warning no matter who uses them.

    Considering the cause, I say it goes to the homeowner. If Billy had plugged it up, that would be different, but I don't see where Billy had any expectation of impending failure or duty to wait it out.

  3. I agree. IMO Billy is not responsible.
  4. I'm with Billy!
  5. Thanks for the input so far. I forgot to mention this: Billy has some of his own property damaged from the flood. His text book that cost $100 and an electronic device that cost $200. Both are not salvageable. Should the landlord be obligated to compensate him?
  6. Does Billy have renters insurance?
  7. ^ No, he does not
  8. What? No renters insurance? Uh ohhh....
  9. #9 Oct 16, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2010
    This would not be the renter problem. Perhaps he should find out what the renters rights/laws are where he lives. If the roof leaks, water tank breaks, door handle falls off, fridge dies, toilet breaks - this fall under sh** happens and it's the landlords/owner problem to fix it.

    If I was the renter I would ask the landlord if after he takes a dump does he stand in the bathroom and waits until the toilet tank fills? I would also ask him to explain how a toilet can be "misused".

    If the owner takes the money out of his damage deposit the renter can take him to court. Damage deposit is not to used for every day things that can break it's meant for....when the renter puts holes in the wall, burns in the carpet - renter damage.
    Besides the owner would/should have home owners insurance to cover the damage.

    You mentioned your friend lost 300.00 worth of stuff. Even if he had renter's insurance it would not be worth claiming 300.00 worth of damage as the deductable would more than likely be higher.
  10. Depends what state this is in but overall the landlord/property owner is responsible for this. When might the renter be responsible? If the plumber came out and found the renter's shoe stuffed in the toilet, showing some type of negligence. However in this instance the toilet simply was older and malfunctioned so the owner/landlord takes care of this. It is too bad the renter did not have renters insurance but as the above poster mentioned, the deductible might have made filing a claim not worth it. This would be chalked up to an unfortunate incident. As an owner of a handful of apartment buildings I can say that these things happen all the time and we owners consider it to be part of doing business (and yes, we have insurance to cover these things, and the owner should have too).
  11. Not knowing the particular rental laws in your state, I have to agree with the majority on this one - I'm with Billy. This is bad luck/wear and tear and the owner is responsible. Where I am, the owner could not take the cost of the repairs out of my damage deposit.

    Having said that, if I were Billy, I would also chalk up the damage to my textbook and electronic device to bad luck and not pursue the landlord to compensate me for the stuff I lost.
  12. Toilet chains don't last 20 plus years. I agree with everyone above. Worse things happen than toilet flooding. Now if he had burned the entire house down from neglect, then there would be a legit. problem!
    Give the kid a break!
  13. I could tell the story of a tenant who tried to put his Christmas tree down the garbage disposal but it is way too OT..LOL
  14. ^ you have got to be kidding me! Now that I would take out of his damage deposit...
  15. I am a landlord. billy is not responsible for the damage to the carpet or the other condo's ceiling. it is the landlord's responsibility to maintain the property. although what happened with the toilet was an accident due to age & wear/tear, the resulting damage to the property is the landlord's responsibility. if john can't afford the repairs, then he can make a claim against his homeowner's insurance.

    however, any damage to billy's property is billy's responsibility. renter's insurance is cheap...too bad he didn't get any.