Say a tenant accidentally flushed a hard object down the toilet, is it better for the tenant to take care of the plumber bill or call the landlord? Would this be good grounds for a rental raise in the future if calling the landlord?
As a landlord, we would always prefer for you to call me whenever there is an issue. It is possible they might tell you to handle yourself, but they need to be in on the decision. Botched repairs can cause more headache than the original problem.
As to the specifics of who pays for repairs. It is usually spelled out in the lease.
This is typically spelled out in the lease. Our leases say that
- tenant must call us (the landlords) if something needs to be repaired.
- tenants are responsible for the costs associated with damage above and beyond normal wear-and-tear that is not covered by our insurance.
- repairs must be done by people we choose rather than people the tenant chooses, otherwise the tenant will not be reimbursed.
So far, every incident of plumbing damage that was caused by a tenant's accidental negligence has been fixable by us and hasn't resulted in any extra charges to the tenant. Fire damage has been covered by insurance. Our time is valued at US$50/hr, and if repairs for an incident ever get above $200, we might consider a one-time charge to the tenant.
The third point attempts to preclude claims for non-existent repairs and repairs by acquaintances of the tenants that might be overpriced.
I have been a landlord.
There are two questions in this question:
- Who initiates the repair process?
- Who pays for the repair?
You as the tenant have to return the rental property back to the owner at the end of the lease in working condition, or you may be responsible for the repair cost. There are of course allowances for normal wear and tear.
So, if you caused the damage, you may be responsible for the cost.
The question remains: who initiates the repair? If the full cost of the repair isn't easily determined, or if the repair/replacement will change the structure or a fixture, then it is best to call the landlord or their representative first.
First, some examples:
- Break a light fixture that is hanging in the kitchen.
- Break the door to the bathroom
- Punch a hole in the wall
- The heat pump dies.
If you buy a replacement light fixture and it doesn't match what was there, it will be noticed during the inspection, and the tenant will pay for the one the landlord has installed, but the tenant does get to keep the one he originally paid for. This also applies to a toilet, sink, or refrigerator.
If you don't know how to hang a door, or you have no idea what color/type of paint is in the rest of the unit, you may have to pay for a second door, or for it to get repainted.
Wall repair can be tricky; doing it yourself or having a friend do it can make the situation worse. Plus there is still a paint problem.
The heat pump can be a big cost, and the repair can range from an amount covered by the annual maintenance contract to a total replacement.
If you have any doubts, please consult the rental contract and contact the landlord. Calling them doesn't change who pays what, but it may avoid the situation where the tenant pays unnecessary costs or makes the situation worse.
is it better for the tenant to take care of the plumber bill or call the landlord?
Depends. Tell me how you take care of the damage that you may have caused that are not part of your rented property (i.e. damage to the fall drain when you rent an appartment in the 6th floor). Also the landlord has a right for a professional repair - so "taking care yourself" may end up with an invoice from the landlord if you do it yourself and it is not done to professional standards.
Would this be good grounds for a rental raise in the future if calling the landlord?
No. Because the renter has to pay damage caused by abuse/gross neglect. To 100% on top of the rent. There is no damage left to justify a raise in rent. That said, not every country has sane laws, and if you are totally free to renegotiate rent, i.e. after a year, the landlord can do what he wants.
You didn't share your location, but I've had a similar experience in the US. I was renting a house and was in the process of having cable TV service connected. The house only had a single cable TV jack, so I asked the installer to wire a second jack on the other end of the house. The installer said that since I was merely a renter and not the property owner, they could not do any sort of work on the house. They could connect service since that was done outside the house, but any repairs or modifications to the house require explicit permission from the property owner. Doing that sort of work without owner permission opens them up to a bunch of legal problems (the owner could consider their unauthorized work "property damage" and sue, the cable company's insurance that covers injury and property damage doesn't cover unauthorized work, etc).
Long story short, you may not be able to get a plumber to agree to do the work if you try to call them yourself. Even if you impersonate the homeowner and sign off on the work, there could be ugly legal issues if something goes wrong. Your best bet is just to call the landlord. If you're worried about the landlord being upset about the expense, you can always offer to reimburse them for the cost of the plumber visit (if they can't fix the problem themselves).
I wouldn't imagine a reasonable landlord would hold it against you if you report an fairly routine plumbing problem like that (especially if you offer to cover the cost) unless it becomes frequent or exorbitantly expensive. On the other hand, a reasonable landlord would be very upset if you have to call and say "we have a plumbing problem, I tried to have it fixed without telling you, and now we have two plumbing problems". The latter shows a disrespect for the property, would make me wonder what else you've hidden, and would make me think twice about renewing your lease at all.