Home > Plumbing issues: is it a tenant or landlord’s problem?


Plumbing issues: is it a tenant or landlord’s problem?


Generally, the landlord is obligated by law to provide a ‘warranty of habitability’. This means that he or she is responsible for making sure that the place is safe and sanitary to live in. This may include providing ample protection from the elements, potable water, functional taps and plumbing, and safe construction of fixtures.


Repairs and maintenance fall under the liability of the owner, depending on what has caused the damage. They also fall under two categories; urgent and non-urgent which have different response times accordingly.

How about plumbing emergencies?

In the event of an emergency, occupants should inform the landlord immediately. Failure to do so can pose more problems and can mean extra charges for repairs. It could also result in charges for the tenant. The following are considered urgent:


  • Blocked drainages
  • Flooding
  • Failure of any appliance that was included in the rental (e.g. washing machine)
  • Imploded pipes
  • Breakdown of water supply
  • Broken pipes
  • Bursting toilet
  • Faulty water heater
  • Defective sewage system
  • Any other faults that can seriously damage property  

What should a tenant do?

Inform the lessor immediately. If there is no response, refer to the agreement for other emergency contacts. Usually, they are obligated to respond with reasonable efficiency depending on the degree of emergency. If there is no response from all parties, and the tenant believes delayed reaction could result in further damages, the tenant may contact a plumber immediately to take appropriate measures to mitigate further damages and temporarily control the situation. Post-emergency repair work must be authorised by the landlord.


The occupant may also source out their own contacts for repairs but should inform the other party first, with ample documentation as proof. It is also advisable not to spend more than $1,000 out of pocket to avoid the possibility of not getting reimbursed, as this is the maximum amount that owners are obligated to pay.


If the occupant is looking for a plumbing service, they should find a professional service that specializes in the issue at hand.

What if it’s not urgent?

If the concern is not in the aforementioned, the lessor should be contacted as soon as possible with all communication documented. Generally, they are required to respond with reasonable speed or efficiency.

When is the tenant responsible?

In some cases, occupants may be liable to pay for the repairs themselves if proven to be negligent. This may include damage resulting from the tenant not informing the landlord of damage reasonably efficiently, or from a lack of upkeep from the tenant as obligated in the lease agreement.

Common issues include:

  • Disposing of non-dissolvable products in the toilet (e.g. diapers or nappies, wet wipes, feminine hygiene products, cotton balls, dental floss, and cotton buds)
  • Throwing food debris in the sink (e.g. fruit and vegetable peels, leftover food, and flour)
  • Discarding cooking oil onto the basin
  • Human and pet hair clogging shower drains
  • Silt and pebbles in the drain
  • Storm water drainage and gutter flow issues due to lack of upkeep and not ensuring water management.
  • Unreported leaks, damp and mould (which may have been addressed by the landlord whilst still manageable)

Not-so-common objects that can pose problems:

  • Dumping paint in the sewage: Paint can be hazardous to the environment. Make sure to adhere to your area’s regulations on how to dispose of this safely.
  • Flushing paper towels: Though paper towels are made of paper, they are not as water dissolvable, hence, only toilet paper should be flushed.
  • Produce stickers: his may look harmless but since it’s plastic, it can add to the build-up.
  • Eggshells: These may be biodegradable but are not water-soluble.

How about maintenance?

Renters are expected to preserve the condition of the property and this includes making sure that pipes are not clogged. If proven to have caused a blocked drain, expenses may be charged to their own account. This is why proper disposal is important.


Depending on the area, the duties of maintenance and repairs may also vary. Always refer to the tenancy agreement before anything else and if necessary seek the right help and advice.

Maintenance and repair

Talking about the maintenance of water systems can be tricky because both parties are liable. Owners are obligated to provide a functional system while renters are expected to be diligent in taking care of it.


In the event of damage, it may be hard to know who has caused the damage in the first place, as the process may be cyclical. To identify the issue, a plumber should be called in to effectively diagnose the cause of the problem.


Dealing with repairs can also cause distress since fingers can be pointed at both parties. When in doubt, always refer to the contract and the processes of the local government.   

About the guest author

Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, Yahoo News, and Influencive. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. Connect with him on LinkedIn.


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HouseME Founders Ben Shaw and Kyle Bradley

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 HouseME’s Co-Founders, Kyle Bradley and Ben Shaw.


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