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rated:
Asking because I know we have a lot of landlords here:

The kitchen sink in my rental home has some sort of a problem with it.  After about 2 minutes of running water it begins to back up (it's a double sink with a disposal and it backs up into both sinks regardless of which side fills).  I'm pretty careful about how we use the sink.  Nothing ever goes down the one side (we have a drying rack there and a drain plug in).  The other side has the disposal and we are pretty careful with how we use it.

I only state these above, not to ask for plumbing help, but to evidence that I don't believe we have done anything outside or normal, responsible use of the sink.

I looked in my lease and it has the following statement:

"Tenant shall be responsible for all routine maintenance including, but not limited to, stoppage of sewer because of misuse, broken water pipes/fixtures due to neglect or carelessness of Tenant, and replacement of any burned out light bulbs.  Tenant understands that they, at their expense, shall keep sinks, lavatories, and commodes open unless stoppage is due to defective sewer systems.  Tenant shall report any water leaks to Owner."

Reading the above it sounds like a pretty big catch all...that I'm responsible for most anything.  My concern is that this problem only appeared to start happening in the last week or so - after we have had many day of heavy rain.  To me, based on what I have seen and my known usage - it might be some sort of drainage problem. In this case who is responsible?

If I call a plumber myself and they come and tell me there is an issue with the sewer/drainage, then I shouldn't have to pay.  But might my landlord refuse to pay because I got my own plumber?
Alternatively, why should I have to use my landlord's plumber - especially if I think their rates are too high?

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rated:
BenH said:   
Reading the above it sounds like a pretty big catch all...that I'm responsible for most anything.  My concern is that this problem only appeared to start happening in the last week or so - after we have had many day of heavy rain.

 

  If ONLY the kitchen sink backs up, then it has nothing to do with the sewer or main line or rain. THere's a clog in the kitchen line.  Two minutes to clog ... probably quite a ways down the line. You can always buy a cheap $20 auger if u want to do yourself

there's a few big companies here that do $99 drain clean outs with video camera inspection, they make their money if you want them to replace a line.

rated:
ruff is right on this one. If it's just slow, get a bottle of draino first, use the entire bottle. If that doesn't work, get one of this:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/RIDGID-Kwik-Spin-41348/203203829

rated:
rufflesinc said:   
BenH said:   
Reading the above it sounds like a pretty big catch all...that I'm responsible for most anything.  My concern is that this problem only appeared to start happening in the last week or so - after we have had many day of heavy rain.

 

  If ONLY the kitchen sink backs up, then it has nothing to do with the sewer or main line or rain. THere's a clog in the kitchen line.  Two minutes to clog ... probably quite a ways down the line. You can always buy a cheap $20 auger if u want to do yourself

there's a few big companies here that do $99 drain clean outs with video camera inspection, they make their money if you want them to replace a line.

  I agree that if it's only the sink backing up that it's not a main line problem. I know you weren't asking for plumbing advice, but this is literally a 10 minute clean out. Buy one of these......

http://www.homedepot.com/p/BrassCraft-1-4-in-x-20-ft-Pistol-Grip... 

Feed it down the hole on the side opposite of the disposal and spin it (you will need to manually feed the snake until you find the clog). If the hole isn't big enough to feed the tip of the auger through, look under cabinet and remove the U shaped pipe that is lowest (should be able to remove it by hand especially if it's plastic). Be sure to put down towels or use a bucket as this pipe will have water and gunk in it. Then feed the snake into the pipe that goes into wall.

Once you learn how to use the auger, you'll be happy to stick it in the tub drain and pull out a bunch of hair and make the tub drain faster (along with all the other sinks in the house). It's a pretty useful tool to have but this particular one isn't all that great for toilets.

If you really don't want to be a plumber, find one that will do this clean out for $100 or less (you may need to call around). If you can't find anyone to do it cheap, at least make them snake every drain in the house. That might prevent another service call.

rated:
So - for fear of going into "plumbing help" I will say this. The two drains we use the most are the kitchen sink and the master shower. I would say the washer too...but I really don't have too much insight into what is going on there because it is drained by the time I get to it.

We did have a problem with the shower. 95% of the time it seemed to drain fine, but occasionally I'd find myself standing in an inch of water near the end of my shower. A couple of weeks ago this happened again. I turned off the shower and let it drain, which it did. I decided to run the water again and plunge just to make sure it was clear. Plunging it cause all these fine particles to come up through the drain and before I knew it I was in like 2 inches of water with these little grainy bits (kind of metallic smelling). It didn't drain even after I had returned from the store with the drano. It did drain after I used it and I haven't seen a problem since (but again the issue was not that common). I also haven't tried to plunge it again because I didn't want to test my luck.

I say the above again more to demonstrate that it may indeed be a blockage further down the line. I guess I am asking at what point am I responsible and should I "foot the bill" and then try to get my landlord to pay me back if the issue is something more than "hey you clogged this drain with hair" or whatever.

Assuming I'm the one that should be taking care of it, I might just buy an auger do to the job. I tried with an unwound coat hanger and it was clear...but that was only like 3-4 feet. Do they make a 50' attachment to that Kwik spin ZenNUTS or is 25' the longest it goes?

rated:
ZenNUTS said:   ruff is right on this one. If it's just slow, get a bottle of draino first, use the entire bottle. If that doesn't work, get one of this:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/RIDGID-Kwik-Spin-41348/203203829

  Home Depot rents augers at some stores.

rated:
BenH said:    Do they make a 50' attachment to that Kwik spin ZenNUTS or is 25' the longest it goes?
  If the clog is more than 25' from the sink, it will be a main line issue. 

rated:
http://www.homedepot.com/tool-truck-rental/Drill-Unit-Drain-Clea... - I've rented the powered augers a few times in the past from HD with great results in the kitchen.

rated:
What did your landlord say when you called and told him you had a stopped up sink or a stopped up shower?

rated:
meade18 said:   What did your landlord say when you called and told him you had a stopped up sink or a stopped up shower?
I try not to contact her if I can take care of it myself at minimal expense.  I've already e-mailed her along with another issue and waiting to hear what she says.
It is sometimes a day or two before she responds to e-mail, so I wanted to get the consensus here as to how to interpret the lease and how payment/hiring of a plumber would work depending on where the issue was do that I can act immediately after I hear from her.

I'm hoping she tells me that the issue has happened before after heavy rain falls...but she can just as likely say "well call a plumber and deal with it - your lease says your responsible!"... so again, I wanted the input of a 3rd party as well.

rated:
christoj879 said:   http://www.homedepot.com/tool-truck-rental/Drill-Unit-Drain-Clea... - I've rented the powered augers a few times in the past from HD with great results in the kitchen.
  
Thanks...it costs as much to rent this for 4 hours as to buy the other one.  Is the power drill one that much better than the hand powered to make it worth it?

rated:
The hand augers have a tendency to bend after a certain length.
Once it bends. It's a pain to fix. Also you have to clean them or they rust.

I've used both and the power auger was well worth the $75 to rent for all day.

rated:
BenH said:   
meade18 said:   What did your landlord say when you called and told him you had a stopped up sink or a stopped up shower?
I try not to contact her if I can take care of it myself at minimal expense.  I've already e-mailed her along with another issue and waiting to hear what she says.

 

 this is why I don't have such a clause in my lease. I don't want my tenants not telling me if there's a drain problem or any other maintenance problem. 

rated:
If your sink is near the outside line it could be tree roots causing it, but I would also expect other things to clog up. if you open the cap to your drain line can you see liquid flowing quickly down when you flush a toilet?

rated:
Don't make too many assumptions... just because it's only the kitchen sink (and it may not be), don't assume that's it's only a 'clogged' drain and can be handled with a 25' snake.

I've had a similar problem with a kitchen drain. The clog is dead in the middle of a 55' run (between the sink and the nearest cleanout) and was caused by a low spot in the drain line (that only drains that kitchen sink) caused by improper strapping of the line. It was 'snake-able' with a long (industrial snake) but the buildup was basically rock hard (ever see what happens to a combination of fat and soap over time) and would re-clog very 2-3 years. In addition, the line was run between a wooden joist and a steel I beam where it couldn't just be accessed and either restrapped or replaced. Eventually, I gave up and worked with a plumber to re-route the line and ensure that it was properly pitched.

The landlord can claim that it's just a clog is the tenant's issue, but it could be a bit more complicated.

rated:
BenH said:   
christoj879 said:   http://www.homedepot.com/tool-truck-rental/Drill-Unit-Drain-Clea... - I've rented the powered augers a few times in the past from HD with great results in the kitchen.
  
Thanks...it costs as much to rent this for 4 hours as to buy the other one.  Is the power drill one that much better than the hand powered to make it worth it?

Yes, 1000%.  The powered auger is much better than a hand one, I rented the power after trying a few hand ones that worked like garbage.

rated:
keep in mind that when you pay a pro ($99 here) only if they succeed in clearing the drain. HD won't refund your rental if the tool can't clear the drain. Just sayin!

rated:
Just because something is written in the lease does not mean it is legal or enforceable. It could just be a scare tactic for unsophisticated tenants. My guess is that it is the landlord's responsibility to make sure the drains work properly, although details may be state-specific.

Here are a few things I've learned that they didn't teach in school:
* Don't pour oils into the kitchen sink to prevent growth of fat blobs inside mine and main lines. All oil should be saved in containers for recycling (or trash).
* Food should go in the trash, not the disposal, especially starchy food like pasta.
* Pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to not clog the dishwasher's drain line.
* Use a GOOD, appropriately sized hair catcher in the bathtub and shower and clean it after each use.
* Sink drains sometimes have to be cleaned. The p trap and drain stoppers are usually pretty easy to take apart, clean, and put back together.

rated:
rufflesinc said:   
BenH said:   
meade18 said:   What did your landlord say when you called and told him you had a stopped up sink or a stopped up shower?
I try not to contact her if I can take care of it myself at minimal expense.  I've already e-mailed her along with another issue and waiting to hear what she says.

 

 this is why I don't have such a clause in my lease. I don't want my tenants not telling me if there's a drain problem or any other maintenance problem. 

  I think I would feel the same.  I'm a prior homeowner and a responsible tenant.  That being said I take umbrage to the idea that many of these things I'm responsible for.
If a drain is clogged from grease, then it is probably clogged from 90% of the grease of previous tenants (or the owner who previously lived here), as I don't do things like that to the drain.

OTOH, I'll still tell her if I think there is a more insidious problem, but I won't necessarily tell her everything I do for fear she will tell me *not* to do it.  For instance - when I moved in the driveway electric gate had a very very short range.  If I told her about that she would have just said "well that's how it is - you need to pull up right next to it".  I know this based on other interactions.  I have enough knowledge to poke around in the box of the gate and I realized that whoever worked on it last plugged one of the coax antennas in wrong and crushed the inner wire.  I re-spliced a new coax connector on there and now it works from down the block.  I worry that if I told her I fixed that she would tell me not to mess around with stuff like that...but if I didn't it would never get fixed because it "works enough."

Anyway - still waiting for an answer as to how things would work if I hired the plumber myself and they determine it is a problem with the main line/sewer.  Do I then have the right to be reimbursed?

rated:
BenH said:   Anyway - still waiting for an answer as to how things would work if I hired the plumber myself and they determine it is a problem with the main line/sewer.  Do I then have the right to be reimbursed?
  
Likely not.  Probably depends on your state/local laws, but typically you'd have to report the issue to your LL first and give them an opportunity to repair.  If LL fails to repair, after a certain period of time you'd have the right to repair and deduct from the rent.

rated:
I would never pour draino or other harsh chemicals down a drain, and power augers can be bad news too.  Maybe I'm too cautious after owning a 100+ year old home and seeing several neighbors push power augers right through the old pipes and/or eat right through them with harsh chemicals.  

Boiling water can do wonders for a clogged sink.  I pour a kettle of boiling water down each of the shower drains in my house every few months, and it clears them right up.

As for the OP's issue, call the landlord.  You have the potential to do some real damage; make that his problem, not yours.

rated:
civ2k1 said:     
Likely not.  Probably depends on your state/local laws, but typically you'd have to report the issue to your LL first and give them an opportunity to repair.  If LL fails to repair, after a certain period of time you'd have the right to repair and deduct from the rent.

  
dcwilbur said:   As for the OP's issue, call the landlord.  You have the potential to do some real damage; make that his problem, not yours.

I guess I'm not being clear with my question. I'm expecting my LL to tell me that it is my responsibility.
Based on past encounters she is probably going to say something like:

"Ok. I'll send over the plumber - but if it is just a clog in the line then you will be responsible to pay it."

Which - according to the verbiage in the lease sounds correct.

HOWEVER - and this is my issue. I don't want her to send over her plumber who might charge me double what I can find someone else to do it.
If there is the possibility I have to pay for it, I want to get someone who I feel is reasonable.

But then she may give me a hard time and say something like "Ok, well if you don't use my guy and this other guy does more damage you'll be on the hook for it."

I may be totally jumping the gun here and maybe this won't happen - but I still haven't heard back from contacting her this afternoon (7 hours ago).
I just want to be prepared based on what she will say and I want to know what my rights are in this case.

thanks. I'll report back when I've got some traction one way or another.
  

rated:
BenH said:   HOWEVER - and this is my issue. I don't want her to send over her plumber who might charge me double what I can find someone else to do it.
If there is the possibility I have to pay for it, I want to get someone who I feel is reasonable.


Let's say you hire a plumber and it turns out that the landlord has to pay but the amount is double what her plumber would have charged. Do you see? This is why I have a clause in the contract which states the tenant is responsible for the first $25 of repairs. Oh, and as for doing it yourself, don't get the line stuck in the drain. Once, I had a "professional" plumber snake the kitchen sink but he couldn't pull the auger out. He had to call his boss late at night to bail him out so this took an additional hour. The whole thing took three hours and the bastard used my toilet. It was a nightmare.

rated:
rufflesinc said:   keep in mind that when you pay a pro ($99 here) only if they succeed in clearing the drain. HD won't refund your rental if the tool can't clear the drain. Just sayin!
  Must be a regional thing.  Not around here.l

rated:
scripta said:   Just because something is written in the lease does not mean it is legal or enforceable. It could just be a scare tactic for unsophisticated tenants. My guess is that it is the landlord's responsibility to make sure the drains work properly, although details may be state-specific.

Here are a few things I've learned that they didn't teach in school:
* Don't pour oils into the kitchen sink to prevent growth of fat blobs inside mine and main lines. All oil should be saved in containers for recycling (or trash).
* Food should go in the trash, not the disposal, especially starchy food like pasta.
* Pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to not clog the dishwasher's drain line.
* Use a GOOD, appropriately sized hair catcher in the bathtub and shower and clean it after each use.
* Sink drains sometimes have to be cleaned. The p trap and drain stoppers are usually pretty easy to take apart, clean, and put back together.

I've found that this is a great hair catcher which sits flush to the floor and it looks better than the white plastic ones.

https://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Bathtub-Drain-Protector/dp/B00E...

rated:
dcwilbur said:   I would never pour draino or other harsh chemicals down a drain, and power augers can be bad news too.  Maybe I'm too cautious after owning a 100+ year old home and seeing several neighbors push power augers right through the old pipes and/or eat right through them with harsh chemicals.  

Boiling water can do wonders for a clogged sink.  I pour a kettle of boiling water down each of the shower drains in my house every few months, and it clears them right up.

As for the OP's issue, call the landlord.  You have the potential to do some real damage; make that his problem, not yours.

  
It happened to a friend and his house is only about 30-35 years old.  He's a DIY kind of guy who snaked out their kitchen drain every now and then due to clogs.  One day, they smelled a foul odor.  Turns out, a hole was punched in the drain pipe which was under the slab.  They had to tear up the kitchen and family room floors to get to the break.  

We had a slow draining sink in our half bath.  I went in search of something that was not Drano before we tried to snake it and found a product called Green Gobbler.  It really helped clear the line.  Whenever it starts to slow up again, I treat it.  

http://www.greengobbler.com/

rated:
BenH said:   
civ2k1 said:     
Likely not.  Probably depends on your state/local laws, but typically you'd have to report the issue to your LL first and give them an opportunity to repair.  If LL fails to repair, after a certain period of time you'd have the right to repair and deduct from the rent.

  
dcwilbur said:   As for the OP's issue, call the landlord.  You have the potential to do some real damage; make that his problem, not yours.

I guess I'm not being clear with my question. I'm expecting my LL to tell me that it is my responsibility.
Based on past encounters she is probably going to say something like:

"Ok. I'll send over the plumber - but if it is just a clog in the line then you will be responsible to pay it."

Which - according to the verbiage in the lease sounds correct.

HOWEVER - and this is my issue. I don't want her to send over her plumber who might charge me double what I can find someone else to do it.
If there is the possibility I have to pay for it, I want to get someone who I feel is reasonable.

But then she may give me a hard time and say something like "Ok, well if you don't use my guy and this other guy does more damage you'll be on the hook for it."

I may be totally jumping the gun here and maybe this won't happen - but I still haven't heard back from contacting her this afternoon (7 hours ago).
I just want to be prepared based on what she will say and I want to know what my rights are in this case.

thanks. I'll report back when I've got some traction one way or another.
  

Penny wise, pound foolish.  Why do you think "her plumber" is going to be so expensive?  If you can hire somebody on the cheap, what makes you think they'll get the job done right?  Here's how I would handle it:  Call the landlord.  "I've got a problem with several drains in the house and think we should have a plumber come take a look.  Do you have a reputable plumber that you would like to have come take a look?"  

rated:
BenH said:   
civ2k1 said:     
Likely not.  Probably depends on your state/local laws, but typically you'd have to report the issue to your LL first and give them an opportunity to repair.  If LL fails to repair, after a certain period of time you'd have the right to repair and deduct from the rent.

  
dcwilbur said:   As for the OP's issue, call the landlord.  You have the potential to do some real damage; make that his problem, not yours.

I guess I'm not being clear with my question. I'm expecting my LL to tell me that it is my responsibility.
Based on past encounters she is probably going to say something like:

"Ok. I'll send over the plumber - but if it is just a clog in the line then you will be responsible to pay it."

Which - according to the verbiage in the lease sounds correct.

HOWEVER - and this is my issue. I don't want her to send over her plumber who might charge me double what I can find someone else to do it.
If there is the possibility I have to pay for it, I want to get someone who I feel is reasonable.

But then she may give me a hard time and say something like "Ok, well if you don't use my guy and this other guy does more damage you'll be on the hook for it."

I may be totally jumping the gun here and maybe this won't happen - but I still haven't heard back from contacting her this afternoon (7 hours ago).
I just want to be prepared based on what she will say and I want to know what my rights are in this case.

thanks. I'll report back when I've got some traction one way or another.
  

  
Sorry, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.
If you want your landlord to cover the cost of the plumber, you probably have to let her hire the plumber.
If you're worried that she'll charge you for the plumber after he clears the drain and would rather hire someone cheaper, that's on you.

This isn't so much a "tenant's rights" issue as it's a communication issue with your landlord. If you don't think you did anything that would warrant the drain needing to be cleaned out by a plumber, tell her that and see what her response is. If you do think it could be your fault, then don't give her a hard time when she sends you the bill. But talk to her about your responsibility for the bill before hand.

You already said you don't like to make waves with your landlord. If someone comes on here and says you 100% have the right as a tenant to choose your own plumber and your landlord has to pay no matter what, would you get tough with your landlord and tell her, "I ain't paying for this! I know my rights! Now fix my pipes or I'm taking you to court!" If not, then I think it's more important to get her interpretation than ours.

rated:
Did you take off the trap and see if there is a clog?

rated:
BostonOne said:   scripta said:   Just because something is written in the lease does not mean it is legal or enforceable. It could just be a scare tactic for unsophisticated tenants. My guess is that it is the landlord's responsibility to make sure the drains work properly, although details may be state-specific.

Here are a few things I've learned that they didn't teach in school:
* Don't pour oils into the kitchen sink to prevent growth of fat blobs inside mine and main lines. All oil should be saved in containers for recycling (or trash).
* Food should go in the trash, not the disposal, especially starchy food like pasta.
* Pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to not clog the dishwasher's drain line.
* Use a GOOD, appropriately sized hair catcher in the bathtub and shower and clean it after each use.
* Sink drains sometimes have to be cleaned. The p trap and drain stoppers are usually pretty easy to take apart, clean, and put back together.
I've found that this is a great hair catcher which sits flush to the floor and it looks better than the white plastic ones.

https://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Bathtub-Drain-Protector/dp/B00EU6HB9S/
I use the larger, shower version of this for the bathtub!

rated:
Do not hire your plumber. Let say your plumber breaks the pipe 15 ft down. It will require ripping the flooring to fix. You must notify the landlord.

rated:
Slightly off topic, tangential question - but useful for me and possibly many others:

These types of plumbing issues - are they usually covered by Homeowner's insurance?
How about water damage resulting from a plumbing leak?

I had had a leak episode. Fortunately, not much damage! But would be interesting to know the "what if" scenarios.

rated:
puddonhead said:   Slightly off topic, tangential question - but useful for me and possibly many others:

These types of plumbing issues - are they usually covered by Homeowner's insurance?
How about water damage resulting from a plumbing leak?

I had had a leak episode. Fortunately, not much damage! But would be interesting to know the "what if" scenarios.

  No. It has to burst. Dripping and clogs are not.  Plus most homeowners have a $1000 deductible. 
If let say you high pressure water line bursts inside kitchen, chances are it will be covered. 

rated:
Ok - so closure and I was needlessly worried in this case. Turns out her plumber was quoting cheaper than the other guys.
I actually hadn't actually decided yet whether I wanted to pay the plumber or invest in an auger myself, but her property guy had sent the plumber over before I had a chance to respond and I was starting to lean that way anyway because of the chance that the non-pro auger wouldn't have the length.
I also don't own a ladder tall enough to go through the roof venting so I risked possible just shooting the pipe out the wrong direction.

Anyway, it must have just been a clog since it seems to running ok now. He also only charged me $55 which was well under what the property manager even told me he charged.

So, I'm happy to have the situation resolved as only a bit above what it would have cost me to do it myself (best case scenario of that).

I still think that these particular lease clause are kind of unfair. I mean I'm sure that some of my usage contributed to the drain being clogged, but it was likely just the straw that broke the camels back. I'm sure there were 20 years of grease and other clogs from prior tenants that did the bulk of this damage, and now I'm the one that had to pay for cleanup. But, I've got enough other stuff to be pissed about, so I'll let this one go for now

thanks everyone for their thoughts.

rated:
If you have neighbors living above or below you, then you share a common drain line with them and whoever lives on the first floor always gets screwed first. 

rated:
dcwilbur said:   I would never pour draino or other harsh chemicals down a drain, and power augers can be bad news too.  Maybe I'm too cautious after owning a 100+ year old home and seeing several neighbors push power augers right through the old pipes and/or eat right through them with harsh chemicals.  

Boiling water can do wonders for a clogged sink.  I pour a kettle of boiling water down each of the shower drains in my house every few months, and it clears them right up.

As for the OP's issue, call the landlord.  You have the potential to do some real damage; make that his problem, not yours.
 

  I would advise against pouring boiling water down drains since many drains are made of PVC.  Boiling water can damage PVC.  "Harsh" chemicals are safer.

rated:
 PVC is only rated for up to140 degrees.  Boiling water is 212.

rated:
drew2money said:    PVC is only rated for up to140 degrees.  Boiling water is 212.
  I find that margin hard to believe as certain circumstances you should set the hot water temp to 140.

rated:
drew2money said:    PVC is only rated for up to140 degrees.  Boiling water is 212.
That rating is specifically for long term service.  In other words, you can't plumb a boiler with PVC, but draining a pot of spaghetti in your kitchen sink isn't going to damage your drain lines.  

Skipping 6 Messages...
rated:
TheTrain said:   As a landlord, that sounds like it would be my responsibility to fix. I would actually be a little upset if there was a known plumbing problem and you didn't contact me.
  The simplest way to ensure your tenants contact you about this type of problem is to not put language in the lease making it their responsibility.

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