Plunging Toilets

Do any of you guys who do hands-on work on your own properties, answer service calls for things like a plugged toilet?

The reason I ask is because I’m looking to get into an owner-occupied, and I can picture a situation where neighbors would put me first on the speed-dial to come out and fix every small thing, since I’m so close. I feel like for something simple like a plugged toilet though, some responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the tenant. So I was wondering if any of you have ever added a clause into the rental contract that if a professional comes out and determines a problem to be the tenants fault, and easily fixable, then they would be responsible for the charges. (Hopefully to deter them from abusing the repair calls) Anyone ever heard of anything like this, or ever had tenants that call you for every little problem?

The “clogged toilet” call is more of an urban legend than a reality. Yes, my lease contains a sentence that says that plugged toilets are the tenant’s responsibility. They are also responsible to change furnace filters; replace light bulbs; and light the pilot light. However, if the tenants have tried plunging the toilet unsuccessfully and if they call during normal business hours, I’ll give it a try with my toilet snake. That’s probably happened 5 times in the last 5 years. Likewise if the house has high ceilings, I’ll take my ladder over and change a light bulb for them. I’ll also light a pilot light on the furnace or water heater if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. In other words, if they’ve done their part, I’ll do mine. Of course, that doesn’t absolve them of their obligation. I had one tenant with HORRIBLE KIDS (little terrorists in training really) who had the kids get a toy lodged in the toilet. I made her call a plumber to get it fixed (at her expense).


Tenants are always responsible for damage caused by their negligence or abuse. It doesn’t matter if it’s easily fixable for not. Paying for it will be deterrent enough and may actually encourage them to be more careful.

Just be very careful with what you require. Requiring them to do even simple maintenance puts any damaged caused on your shoulders. For example, if they screw up lighting the pilot and the furnace is damaged, they aren’t responsible since you told them to do it. It may also even be illegal in your state. Some states only allow licensed tradesmen to touch plumbing and heating systems.

Mike - I was talking with two successful landlords last night at my local REIA (I finally found them… :O) and one of them told me that he changes the filters himself. This is a way he has to get inside each house every month and check things out. He felt he had more control over his rentals that way… Just thought about sharing his perspective here.

The other one said that he usually has Home Warranty for his rentals. Over the years he felt it was worthwhile for him. I asked if he asks tenants to pay for the call (like having something in the lease stating that the tenant is responsible for the first $45 of any repairs). He said no because he doesn’t want the tenant deferring maintenance just because the tenant doesn’t want to pay for the service call. He rather pay the $45 himself and ensure the work is done. Again - just thought about sharing…

Have a nice day!

The other one said that he usually has Home Warranty for his rentals.

I doubt that he has many rentals. All warranties are based on the company selling the warranty making money - translation: they take in more money in warranty premiums than they pay out in claims. Personally, I never bet against myself.


I do things very differently because we charge way more rent, and so our tenants expect more.

I have my SWAT plumber on call for a slow toilet. We tried it with a handyman and a hand snake, but the main line always needs those dangerous motorized snakes. In this area there are a lot of trees and therefore tree roots in older sewer lines. In an older home with ONE TOILET it is an emergency. He goes out often. It is just part of overhead.

The licensed plumber also lights all the heaters in the Fall, cleans them and does a carbon monoxide check at that time. Any unit with gas has a carbon monoxide alarm. Also smoke detector batteries are changed out twice a year and everything gets initialed in our Safety Check Binder. This caution helped when I applied for liability insurance. The insurance investigator walked right in and said, “Let me see your safety checklist.” And I had one.

Tenants are taught how to pop in a new A/C filters since they need monthly changing. All units have toilet plungers by each toilet. By the way, do you all know the Spanish word for “toilet plunger”? It is AMIGO!


anyone willing to go into a toilet for me to unclog it is my friend :biglaugh

I like home warranties on my condos since it is cost effective. however prices have gone up over last couple years but you can negotiate when renewing I find. I just renewed 2 contracts this month and both were for $245 for the yr with ZERO deductible on service calls. They will come out for electrical, plumbing and all appliances. Change a garbage disposal free of charge including providing the unit (Sears Kenmore unit), do everything possible on the A/C ( I live in Fl) plus fix all appliances. Generally speaking if I have 2 services call in 1 yr, it has paid for itself plus I hate the phone calls.
One my SFH, I have to deal with the problems since the policies are ridiculously high and have $50 service call fees attached to them.